Emma Coley scored her first varsity goal in eighth grade during the 2017-2018 season. Little did she know there were at least 49 more to come over the next five years.
Coley leads the Detroit Lakes girls hockey team with 19 goals, which is tied for 26th among all girls hockey players at the varsity level in Minnesota.
"It's always super nice to see that," Coley said of being near the top of the state leaders in goals. "I just wish we were winning more games or, at least, doing a little bit better. You win some; you lose some. This is what we have this year, and we just have to make the most of it."
Despite putting up career-high numbers before Christmas, the Lakers are 3-12 and have just two goals as a team on their eight-game winning streak.
"We know we have a young, inexperienced team," Coley said. "We've just had to change our mindset and accept the fact that we're not going to win every game, and that's OK. We just need to do our best, not mess around and really focus on getting better. We need to work on positioning. We made a new positioning chart where we changed some things up. Hopefully that starts helping."
"The first captain's practice, there were a lot of new girls that didn't really know what to expect," Coley said. "We had seventh-graders, eighth-graders and girls that joined like two years ago. They've definitely improved. I saw some girls skate faster this week than I've ever seen them skate. They're improving a lot."
Coley is one of the bright spots in a season full of growing and rebuilding. She scored her 50th career goal earlier this season and has 89 career points in almost five seasons, leaving her 11 points shy of 100 with 10 games left before playoffs.
"My teammates help a lot," Coley said. "They set me up in a position to score a lot of goals, and they get me where I need to be. It's just about having fun, especially this year. We're obviously struggling in some games, but we just need to have fun with it."
Three of those 10 games are against Prairie Centre, Morris-Benson Area and International Falls at home. The Lakers beat all three teams in a span of five games in early December. Coley scored nine goals during those three road games and added three assists.
"It was definitely needed," Coley said on getting the first win of the season over Prairie Centre. "After getting beat like we had been, I think everybody was amped up and ready for the next one. That was definitely a fun night."
The Lakers also played an outdoor game on Jan. 4 against Mankato East. Despite an 11-0 loss, it was a great experience for the seniors to share in their final high school season.
"That was really fun," Coley said of the outdoor game. "I think that was the best part of the season by far. It was really special to play in a game like that. We did it two years ago, and that's one of the games I remember clearly. It's just a special game, and we love to be a part of it."
Coley hopes to add a few more wins to the resume down the stretch. The senior captain isn't focused on hitting any of her personal milestones. Instead, she's excited to experience her teammates' firsts this season as they are the foundation for Detroit Lakes girls hockey for years to come.
"It's kind of like deja vu," Coley said. "I remember scoring my first goal and getting my first assist. I got my first goal in Northern Lakes when I was an eighth-grader. It's very special, so seeing these girls experience that too is very exciting."