No one expected Emily Helmich to actually play when she joined Augusta Prep's soccer team as a freshman more than three years ago.
She could practice, sure. A school the size of Prep wasn't going to cut anyone.
But there seemed little chance Helmich would play in a game.
Fast forward two years and Helmich not only wanted to play, she wanted to score. She felt her teammates weren't giving her the opportunity, so she talked to coach Forrest Wimberly.
" 'Coach, they're passing the ball to my left foot,' " Wimberly remembered her telling him last year. " 'I'm partially paralyzed on the left side of my body. They've got to play it to my right foot.' I said 'Well, Emily, I hear you. I believe you, I know exactly what you mean. But let's have you tell them.'
"She said, 'Do I have to?' I said, 'Yeah.' "
So Helmich addressed her teammates in Atlanta before they played Mount Vernon. She told them she needed the ball on her right foot, and that they weren't listening when she called for the ball.
Helmich has cerebral palsy. She hadn't scored a goal since kindergarten.
Hemiplegia is a form of cerebral palsy that causes paralysis in one side of the body.
Helmich's condition is slightly less severe, but she still has limited function on her left side. Her left ankle tends to turn out, making it susceptible to sprains.
When she was younger, Helmich endured lengthy physical therapy sessions and multiple injections of Botox.
"When people hear that, they're like 'Whoa,' " Helmich said of a treatment normally associated with anti-aging skin treatments.
The Botox treatments were to relax her muscles. Also, therapists sent an electrical impulse down her left side to target certain muscles that needed treatment.
Helmich wore a plastic brace on her left leg through middle school, where she played soccer at Our Lady of Peace in North Augusta.
When she enrolled at Augusta Prep as a high school freshman, she told her parents she wanted to play there, too.
"We were hesitant on a couple of levels," said Rose Helmich, Emily's mother. "We didn't want her to be a detriment to the team."
Doug Williamson, who was in his final year as Cavaliers girls coach, told Emily she could practice, but said he doubted she would play.
She appeared in a couple of games that year.
Wimberly took over before Emily's sophomore season and, in his words, she took a back seat.
Emily was a junior when she finally approached Wimberly with her wish to score. She then gave the talk to her teammates.
"We all admired her," teammate Kelley Peel said. "We were definitely more aware."
The next week during the Blue and Gold Cup, an event Augusta Prep holds each year, the Cavaliers played Greenwood Christian. The opponent was one of the weaker teams on Prep's schedule, and Emily played extensively.
She was playing forward, where she always played.
Teammate Elizabeth Hayes crossed in front of the goal.
Emily remembers making up six steps to score.
"It was kind of shocking," she said. "I was like, 'OK.' "
It was her first goal since she was a member of the Kinder-Kickers.
Ten games into her senior season, Emily hopes to score again. She's been accepted into four colleges, with Wofford University as the front-runner.
Emily wants to participate as the Terriers' team manager. She doesn't believe she'll have the opportunity to play.
"The fact that she has a physical limitation isn't a limit," Wimberly said. "No one sees that, especially not her."
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