PHOTO BY ELIZABETH BILLMAN

Chasing History, Embracing Family


This article appears in the April 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. This story went to press March 6 and appears as it appears in the magazine, which hits homes later this month. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, we are committed to telling the best stories in lacrosse and recognizing those players who have achieved excellence. Read why in editor-in-chief Matt DaSilva's latest columnDon’t get the mag? Head to USLacrosse.org to subscribe.

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mily Hawryschuk remembers sitting in the crowd at Villanova, then at Towson, then in Chester, Pa., year after year in the mid-2010s, as the seconds ticked off and another Syracuse women’s lacrosse team fell just short.

She remembers watching helplessly as the college careers of her heroes ended, again and again, in the most heartbreaking fashion, on the game’s biggest stage.

Her father, Nick, remembers watching his daughter watch those moments.

“She would stare off, and it would almost be like she wasn’t watching the girls play lacrosse,“ he said. “She was watching and picturing herself. Even then she wanted to win a national championship.”

In Hawryschuk’s mind, her legendary Syracuse career began years before she officially put on the orange and blue — years before she became SU’s captain and a contender for the Tewaaraton Award and the NCAA scoring title.

“Sitting in the stands, that feeling, it was almost like I was playing on the field with them,” Hawryschuk said. “The second the final whistle blew and the other team started cheering, my heart just dropped.” 

There was never a question whether Hawryschuk would one day be on the field for the Orange.

She fell in love with Syracuse the first time she saw a game.

“As a parent, you want your child to keep eyes wide open and look at different schools,” Nick Hawryschuk said. “She’d be at travel games where all these different college coaches were watching, and she’d have an orange stick and orange socks. There really wasn’t anything else we could do.”

Hawryschuk committed to play for her dream team smack in the middle of a run of five straight NCAA final fours for Syracuse, all of which ended without an NCAA title. She watched those playoff games in the stands with her high school all-star team, but she couldn’t separate herself from the players on the field. Syracuse always felt like a family.

And Hawryschuk takes family very seriously.

“I remember watching Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor out there and envisioning the future,” she said. “‘Years from now, this is going to be us.’”

In her first three seasons, Hawryschuk scored more than 150 goals and the Orange won 40 games. Some say she should have been a Tewaaraton Award finalist last year, when Syracuse could bank on at least four goals from her in almost every game while playing one of the most competitive schedules in the country.

But while Syracuse entered every season with hopes of finally winning an NCAA title, the Orange have not returned to the final four since Hawyschuk’s senior year in high school. They were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the first round during Hawryschuk’s first two years at the Carrier Dome. Last season, they finally won a playoff game, only to see another comeback fall short in the quarterfinals against Northwestern.

As a senior, the goal is the same, but the feeling is different.

“Just knowing as the games go on, there’s less playing time at the end,” Hawryschuk said. “There’s only X games remaining in the season and after that it’s done, which is a scary thing to think about.”


"I remember watching Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor out there, envisioning the future. 'Years from now, this is going to be us.'"


If Hawryschuk has her way, X will represent the highest possible number of games. After a decade marked by almosts and what-ifs, Syracuse is starting the 2020s simpler, taking it one game at a time. If the Orange slow down and focus only on winning the next game on the schedule, that will eventually include the final one.

“In the end, if we set little goals, that big picture goal will come,” Hawryschuk said. “Every year, we focus on trying to win it all, but then you lose sight of the little things that are right there in front you.”

Hawryschuk is a master of the little things. One of her biggest impacts comes at practice, where she helps the scout defense by acting as the opposition’s best player. She honed that ability years ago by imitating Syracuse’s best players.

Hawryschuk didn’t start playing lacrosse until middle school, but within a couple of years she was one of the top-rated players in New York.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “The second I got my stick, my dad told me to never put it down. I literally never put it down.”

Almost never. She swears the stick doesn’t go to bed with her. When she sleeps, it gets its own spot in the corner of the room. Her teammates don’t believe her. Syracuse goalie Asa Goldstock met Hawryschuk at a sleepaway camp when they were middle schoolers. They bonded over the Syracuse gear they were both wearing. Goldstock confirmed that Hawryschuk’s stick does indeed get put away before bed. But that’s about the only time.

“It is carried with her everywhere else,” said Goldstock, who lived with Hawryschuk during their first two years on campus. “She’s the only person on bus trips that keeps the stick with her besides Coach [Gary] Gait.”

Hawryschuk bonded with her stick in her backyard, where she’d mess around with one-handed scoops and cradles. Immediately, she could do things other players couldn’t, defying gravity with the shallow-pocketed stick her dad had brought home for her.

Soon she turned to YouTube, where she would watch trick shots from Syracuse legends turned Team USA stars — Treanor, Murray and Michelle Tumolo — and imitate them.

“I still tell Kayla, I literally used to watch YouTube videos of you,” Hawryschuk said of Treanor, the Boston College assistant with whom she now plays on the U.S. training team and against whom she competes in the ACC. “And she laughs at me. I still feel like that little girl when I’m around them.”

Some things never change. In the stands, either. Just like with Treanor’s teams, there are Hawryschuks sitting in the crowd, hoping Syracuse hearts don’t get broken.

Hawryschuk’s whole family — she’s the oldest of four children — comes to every game, home or away. The Hawryschuks and Goldstocks each have RVs that they drive to away games. Sometimes the school will let them park right on campus. Other times they’ll call the hotel where the team is staying.








She returns the favor by coming home every day. Hawryschuk commutes more than an hour each way every day from the Rochester suburb of Victor.

Every day, she throws her gear and her books into her truck, drives roughly 70 miles east on Interstate 90 to the Syracuse campus, takes classes for her finance and accounting degree, helps the Orange achieve that day’s objective, then drives back home.

Hawryschuk officially moved back junior year, but she rarely went more than a day or two without seeing her family. It never seemed weird to Goldstock. Hawryschuk isn’t your average college student. She did not even have an Instagram until Goldstock made her get one because she wanted to post a picture of them together. And it’s not like she was missing Saturday night parties. Moving home just made sense.

“We’re not normal college students,” Goldstock said. “We’re student-athletes. We don’t get all those extracurricular activities on the weekend, so most of the time we don’t notice. She’s in class, we’re together in the locker room, we have practice, then she’s on her way home and I’ll see her in the morning.”

No, Hawryschuk’s family life doesn’t seem unique to her teammates. Her play is another story.

“She’s the most driven person I know,” Goldstock said. “Lacrosse is her life. It’s always been that way.”




PHOTO BY GREG WALL


Hawryschuk (pronounced Harris-CHUCK) spends the drive to and from campus listening to the news, sometimes, if it’s not too boring. Otherwise she listens to motivational videos about athletes and life. It’s something that started between her and her father. They work out together and push each other. When one sees a good inspirational video, for example Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about how he became Arnold Schwarzenegger, he or she sends it to the other.

By the time her trip ends, she’s pretty pumped up. But it’s about more than motivation.

“It’s about putting things in perspective,” Nick Hawryschuk said. “Things are great now, but you never know. You always want to make sure you have a positive outlook.”

Hawryschuk is still sitting in crowds. Living at home has allowed her to watch her brother, Joey, play high school football and her sister, Alison, dance. She gets to play lacrosse with her youngest brother, Mason, who was only 6 when she first left for school.

“My siblings are constantly traveling the country supporting me,” Hawryshuck said. “I love that they follow me now. I want to do the same thing for them.”

Hawryschuk wants to repay the favor to her community, too. She still helps out during youth practices. She gets recognized a bit more.

“The young girls are funny,” Nick Hawryschuk said. “They always want a picture or to say hi to Emily, but for her they’re just an extended family.”

The Hawryschuk family RV will log plenty of miles this year. Syracuse’s 2020 schedule takes them everywhere from South Bend to Dallas to Chicago to Florida during the regular season. The Orange won’t say it out loud — one day at a time, after all — but it could end with a trip to the NCAA tournament and championship weekend in front of 10,000 fans at Baltimore’s Homewood Field.

After that, the family may need to update its travel plans. Hawryschuk remembers getting the call asking her to try out for the U.S. national team. She was in Chicago, getting ready to play Northwestern in the 2019 NCAA tournament.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Just being able to put on those colors and represent them, it’s an amazing feeling.”

All the accolades are kind of unreal to Hawryschuk. They are less surprising to those who know her.

“I always knew, ever since she was a freshman, she was going to be the greatest,” Goldstock said. “She’s the best player in the country, hands down. I always knew it. She’s capable of so much. It’s exciting to watch her.”

Hawryschuk doesn’t need to be reminded of that. She was watching herself play for Syracuse long before anyone else.