Emily Benway is a leader and it shows on the basketball court.
The Rochester native is a senior captain of the Saint Joseph’s College women’s basketball team, which is 22-0 after Tuesday night’s win over Emmanuel. During Benway’s time with the Monks, the team has put together a 97-13 record and three NCAA tournament bids.
The team is ranked eighth and 11th in two national Division III polls.
Being a senior on a team with that much recent success brings added pressure and Benway thrives on it.
“I try to be the vocal leader on the team,” said Benway, one of three Granite Staters on the team along with freshmen Alyson Fillion of Bedford and Kaleigh Walsh of Windham. “Communication is key. I might annoy them half the time telling them where to go. I feel my biggest role is make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Benway stepped onto the Saint Joe’s campus in Standish, Maine, after a career at Spaulding High, where she shined despite the team not earning the best results on the court. Benway averaged 15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and eight assists a game as a senior. She also played varsity volleyball in high school.
Her final two choices for college came down to St. Joe’s and Merrimack. In the end, it was an easy decision for her.
“I stepped on St. Joe’s campus and I knew it was the school for me,” Benway said. “I liked Merrimack. I loved the team and everything like that, but when I toured (Saint Joseph’s), I knew it was the school for me.”
Now in her fourth year as a starter, Benway has been twice named to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Second Team and has improved statistically in her final year with the Monks. So far this season, Benway is averaging 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.
“Emily is all about the team first,” said St. Joseph’s coach Mike McDevitt. “She’s going to finish her career well over 1,200 points and over 800 rebounds. Those are hall-of-fame numbers, but she doesn’t really care about that. In fact, when she gets a personal accolade she’s embarrassed. She’d rather the team be successful than any of her individual awards.”
Off the court, Benway is driven by a desire to help others. A licensed nursing assistant for the past five years, Benway has been working toward becoming a nurse and pushes herself in that arena just as hard as she does on the court.
She has already applied to Great Bay Community College to continue her education toward becoming a nurse once she graduates from St. Joseph’s.
“I knew I wanted to be in the medical field and help people,” Benway said. “I love helping people. That’s just who I am. I get into their world, and I love every aspect of it. I just love the patient interaction and being hands-on and physically helping someone get better. I work at Portsmouth Hospital. That was really the kicker that this was what I wanted to do.”
Being driven to succeed in the classroom and on the court has helped keep Benway focused every day as the academics and the athletics work in unison.
“I don’t procrastinate as much in season,” Benway said. “It pushes me. I want to do extremely well in academics, and in order to play on the court I have to be doing well in the books. They go hand in hand.”
For now, though, there are three games left in the season before the conference tournament and a chance to improve on last year’s historic season. Benway had 10 points to help lead the Monks to their first-ever NCAA tournament win, over UMass-Boston, last March.
“We take it game by game, day by day,” Benway said. “We’re grateful for every opportunity that we get.”