South's Emma Cortez inks with LCCC

May 23—CHEYENNE — Since she was a kid, Cheyenne South senior Emma Cortez has loved the game of soccer and knew that she wanted to play it for as long as she possibly could.

For most athletes, that journey ends after their final season in high school. But Cortez's journey took another step forward Wednesday inside the South Auditorium. In front of teammates, friends and family, Cortez signed to continue her soccer career with Laramie County Community College.

"It means a lot, and I'm really excited to be playing at LCCC," Cortez said. "I'm going to be doing a lot of work this summer to get ready for it, but ultimately, I'm excited to keep playing soccer and keep playing the game I love."

Cortez wrapped up her high school career by helping lead South to its best season in school history. The senior posted a pair of goals and four points to help South finish the season 2-9-4. One of her biggest goals of the season came in the dying seconds of the Bison's first game against Central that forced a 1-1 draw.

"Emma has been an outstanding and versatile player here at South," South coach Brandon McHenry said in a statement. "Her dedication and hard work have been instrumental in our team's success, and I have no doubt that she will bring the same level of commitment and excellence to LCCC."

When playing at the next level became a realistic possibility for Cortez two summer ago, LCCC became the most intriguing option. Cortez credits one of her friends for helping her get in touch with second-year coach Lugo Arenas last summer, and the conversations she has had with LCCC's head coach have made the decision that much easier.

The other part that made the decision easy was the close proximity to home.

"I don't like being away from home," Cortez said with a laugh. "I love being with family, and I love having them out on the field watching me play and supporting me."

LCCC's reputation as a consistent NJCAA tournament contender also helped solidify Cortez's decision to join the hometown college. Over the last two seasons, LCCC has made the national tournament and has won back-to-back Region IX championships while being ranked in the NJCAA's top 25.

"It's always been a thought of mine to play for LCCC, knowing their amazing reputation," Cortez said. "I want to be a part of that team, as well, and make an impact."

Cortez will join Ekenna Little, Jenna Feldman, Madi Moore and Adelaide Gonzales from Cheyenne Central, who also signed to play with the Golden Eagles next fall. Cortez has played on club teams with all four players in the past, and said she is excited to be teammates with them once again.

Being an athlete at the college level requires a large commitment, and Cortez said she plans to hit the ground running this summer to train for the upcoming season. Her work is going to consist of a lot of running and trying to stay in game shape.

"What I have heard is that it is all up to the player to stay in shape," Cortez said. "I'm going to put a lot of time into that and getting into the gym and getting conditioned, as well, in that type of that stuff."

Cortez plans to study physical therapy at LCCC, with the intent of becoming a physical therapy assistant.

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @MattAtencio5.