Archdeacon: Jones a ‘tremendous ambassador’ for students, athletes at UD

Emily Jones was a four-year goalie for the University of Dayton women’s soccer team. CONTRIBUTED

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Emily Jones was a four-year goalie for the University of Dayton women’s soccer team. CONTRIBUTED

Soon-to-be Fulbright Scholar to work at the Centre for Antibiotic Research at the University of Goteborg in Sweden

Few college athletes are paying more attention to the COVID-19 pandemic and the scientists worldwide who are doggedly trying to find a vaccine to control it than Emily Jones.

“I think about them every day. They’re doing the Lord’s work,” said the University of Dayton soccer player, biochemistry major, campus activist, ukulele player and soon to be Fulbright Scholar working at the Centre for Antibiotic Research at the University of Goteborg in Sweden.

“Oh my gosh, I wish I was 5 to 6 years older so I could be a part of those groups. It’s pretty amazing just reading how they were able to get a genome for it and how the scientific community is sharing information to solve it.”

Monday at UD, Jones turns in her years-in-the-making research thesis entitled “Combating Antibiotic Resistance Using Plant Derived Compounds.”

Not only has COVID-19 shut down the campus and postponed her May 10 commencement ceremony, but a couple of days ago she got word her Fulbright studies will start next January instead of this coming September due to the siege.

“We think it’s kind of ironic what she’s been working on the past three years or so and what’s happening now,” said her dad, Randy Jones. “It’s not the same – this is a virus – but it’s related.”

And he thinks some of that connection might become useful in the eight months she’ll now have before reporting to Sweden: “We think there will be a lab somewhere that can use her temporary help.”

Jones has been a good addition no matter what the task at hand say those who dealt with her most at UD, including soccer coach Eric Golz and Dr. Matthew Lopper, the chemistry professor in whose research lab she has studied for nearly four years.

“Emily really maximized her student-athlete experience at UD,” said Golz. “She was a tremendous ambassador for us and represented athletes all across campus.”

This year she received the Presidential Outstanding Scholar Award, the most prestigious acknowledgement given to a UD student athlete each year for their academic achievement, leadership and service to the school and community.

She also teamed up with Flyers’ basketball players, Jordy Tshimanga and Brittany Ward, to represent UD at the NCAA Inclusion and Diversity Forum in Atlanta. The trio then returned to campus and launched Flyers United, a program featuring a dialogue series that would tackle, as she put it, “some of the very hard conversations” on topics like race, identity and body image.

Jones also was the facilitator of Peers Advocating for Violence Education (PAVE), a group that deals with sexual violence prevention and education and one where she especially represented UD athletes.

In addition, she spent three years tutoring the sciences and math at the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), was a member of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honors society, received the Clare Booth Luce Research Scholarship and was on the Dean’s List and the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll her entire time at Dayton.

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Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones working in the labs at UD. CONTRIBUTED

Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones working in the labs at UD. CONTRIBUTED

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Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones working in the labs at UD. CONTRIBUTED

And then there’s the viola and violin she played in the symphony orchestra at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kansas and the pair of ukuleles she brought to UD, where, if asked, she could pluck out Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Passenger’s “Let Her Go.”

All this comes on top of her soccer, which was what got her to Dayton in the first place.

Yet, if you go strictly on career stats, you might say her first 3 ½ seasons as a Flyer weren’t very productive. She played in just three games her first three years. But as Golz pointed out, her representation on campus and her leadership were invaluable to the program.

And the best part of her story came in the final seven games of her senior season. It was a story book finish, especially on Senior Day when she lifted the Flyers to a come-from-behind victory over Davidson.

As her dad puts it: “It was truly like a Disney movie.”

‘Welcome Home’

Jones grew up in Kansas City where her dad is an engineer and her mom a nurse.

While she had varied interests in the classroom, soccer became her sports focus and after turning down several smaller college offers, she committed to play at Kansas State, where her older sister and several friends had gone.

“They were starting a brand new program and I could be a part of building something,” she said. “I had gotten an academic scholarship, so I’d be a walk on at first with soccer. But it turned out they over-recruited and at the last minute they had to drop girls.

“The day before my graduation they called me and said you’re not going to be on the soccer team any more. They said maybe I could try out next year for the team, but I was like ‘Whooa, it sounds like I’m not wanted there.’

“The day after I graduated I sent out 25 emails to every coach I’d ever been in contact with. It was late and everyone I heard back from didn’t have anything. But Dayton responded and said they had just lost a goalkeeper and I was a goalkeeper, so they were interested.”

She visited the campus during Alumni Weekend and was struck by something she said “I know is gonna sound cheesy. When I showed up there was this banner hanging off the front arch coming off Brown Street. It said ‘Welcome Home!’

“And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this can be home,’ and I felt drawn to the school right away.”

Randy won’t forget something then-coach Mike Tucker said about the circumstance:

“He said he thought it was ‘divine grace’ that brought Emily to them. And it turned out to be a pretty amazing thing.

“Just when you think you are at your darkest hour and your life is completely upside down, something unexpected happens and you end up at an unbelievable school in a great city in a great part of the country.

“It would be hard to say that Emily could have ended up at a better place. She got such a full experience at Dayton and the administration and everybody, they all take a real personal interest in you.”

Emily agreed: “This was the perfect place for me. I came here and I didn’t know anything about the school, I didn’t know anyone. It gave me a very blank canvas to work with.

“Maybe part of it is being in a smaller pond, but I had access and got involved. I’ve gotten to know Dr. Spina (UD president Eric Spina) on a personal level and he’s amazing. It’s the same with my professors. I was able to make a mark here.”

The only place she struggled was on the soccer field. She didn’t play or travel with the team as a freshman and thumb surgery at the start of her sophomore season set her back. She played in two games that year and one as a junior.

While Golz – who replaced Tucker when he retired in 2016 – said Jones “always was an awesome teammate,” she admits there were times she really struggled with not playing.

“The one thing that helped was that I always had something else to lean on,” she said. “There was PAVE and Flyers United and TriBeta. My interests and friends outside of soccer helped me cope.”

Yet she never once considered quitting.

“Oh no, that was not an option,” she said. “I love soccer too much. I had gotten too much out of the game to do that.”

And she was about to get more.

‘She earned it’

The Flyers stuck with their usual lineup to start their Senior Day game against Davidson at Baujan Field this past season and that left Jones chomping at the bit.

She was upset and early on she began jogging up and down the sideline to loosen up and to let the coaches know “I’m here. And I am ready!”

She laughs now at the boldness of it: “I know it might seem selfish, but after all this I really believed I was ready for the game. I thought I’d earned it with my work.”

When the Flyers went down 2-0, she put on her goalkeeping gloves and continued to pace.

Finally, at halftime, she was told she was going in.

The UD crowd – which included her parents, Randy and Karen, and her grandmother, Shirley Harvey – began cheering.

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University of Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones escorted onto Baujan Field on Senior Day by her parents Karen and Randy. CONTRIBUTED

University of Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones escorted onto Baujan Field on Senior Day by her parents Karen and Randy. CONTRIBUTED

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University of Dayton women’s soccer player Emily Jones escorted onto Baujan Field on Senior Day by her parents Karen and Randy. CONTRIBUTED

“It was the weirdest feeling,” Jones said. “My teammates were all trying to hype me up – ‘E.J. you got this! You can do it!’ – but then Hanna Merritt (senior defender) came over and said just what I needed to hear. She was like: ‘You got it. There’s no pressure.’ And that settled my nerves.”

Randy said as his daughter took the field: “I don’t know if I was even breathing. But the whole team kind of embraced the moment and was reenergized.”

As Emily protected the net, teammate Landy Mertz scored first for UD and then Alexis Goins tied the game, 2-2. In the 66th minute Jessica Sheldon scored to give Dayton what would be a 3-2 victory.

“It was the most thrilling 45 minutes of any sports event I can remember,” Randy said. “It was just amazing. It was truly like a Disney movie.”

Golz was happy for Emily, too: “She answered the call and gave her teammates a much-needed boost. It was awesome to see.”

Jones ended up starting the Flyers final six games because, Golz said, “she earned it.”

“That changed her whole college experience,” Randy said. “I think 10 years from now she’ll have an even better appreciation of how this all went.”

Ten years from now Jones hopes to be deep in her work in a lab somewhere, but right now – as the COVID 19 pandemic continues – she has some thoughts:

“Trust your scientists, trust your doctors. They are so smart and this is their vocation, their job, and they’re good at it.”

She said they will step up to the challenge just as they did in the HIV/AIDs crisis and the Ebola epidemic:

“Science may take a second, but it always works out and it’s amazing when it does. You just need to be patient.”

Then again – except for a half when she paced the sidelines nonstop with her goalkeeper gloves on – you could say the same about her UD soccer career.

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