Collegiate soccer was always junior Ethan Emery’s dream. After being diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, West Chester University turned him away. Cabrini then welcomed him with open arms. Today, he is the recipient of the Atlantic East’s Medal of Inspiration.
In 2021, Emery, Cabrini men’s soccer midfielder, had routine testing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or HCM. HCM is a disease in which the heart muscle thickens and it becomes difficult to pump blood throughout the body.
After his successful high school athletic career at Penncrest High School, Emery initially committed to West Chester to play soccer. But after five pre-season practices, he was pulled out by the athletic training staff. “I just got pulled off the field in the middle of the training and was told that I wasn’t allowed to play there anymore,” Emery said.
There are many dangers of playing a sport with HCM, like heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which causes blood clots. West Chester was aware of Emery’s diagnosis. West Chester’s athletic training staff sent him to a cardiologist who is an expert in HCM. “They actually sent me to a cardiologist at Penn whose name is Dr. Sharlene Day. She’s the leading sports cardiologist for this condition in the country. So I’m super thankful to have her. She cleared me, which is why I’m able to play now,” Emery said.
Ironically, West Chester’s refusal to let Emery play opened a lot of doors for him, including one that led him to Cabrini.
Becoming a Cavalier
Cabrini men’s soccer coach Rob Dallas said of Emery, “He was at another institution and enjoyed the school, but we wanted to get him into a situation where he was able to play and fortunately, Cabrini was able to offer that to him.”
According to Dallas, Cabrini’s recruitment process was distinct. “I sat on a number of calls through Ethan’s recruitment process with his family, with his cardiologist, with Ethan, and with our athletic training staff. It went
to levels that I’ve never had to go through in the recruiting process before,” Dallas said. “Everybody went into this situation eyes wide open and knew what Ethan’s circumstance was. At the end of the day, nobody really had reservations about it, including Ethan, the doctors, the training staff, and Cabrini. Everybody felt really comfortable with it. So we were just fortunate that the school had an open mind to it. Obviously, that led to him coming here, which we’ve been thrilled with.”
Since joining the soccer team, Emery has made an impact. “I knew he was a great player. I knew he was an even better young man and he came as advertised. He’s been fantastic for us.” Dallas said. During the team’s 2022 season, Emery appeared in 14 matches while starting 12 of them and was also named to the Atlantic East Conference All-Academic Team.
One of Emery’s teammates, senior goalkeeper Griff Rogers, said, “Coming in as a transfer student in 2022 has to be hard to adapt to a new style of play, group of people, and everything else that goes into joining a new team. He comes into practice with the mindset of getting better every day. Ethan is the type of teammate that wants everyone around him to get better. He is constantly motivating his teammates to be the best version of themselves.”
Emery’s initial reaction to the medal was a shock to him. “I was kind of surprised to be quite honest. I’m so happy here and it’s just been a fun time with the team. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I’m playing with [HCM], but it’s not the first thing on my mind.” Emery said. “I was super thankful and appreciative for my parents, my family, my cardiologist and doctors, and for everyone here. I was just very happy for everyone around me because it wasn’t just an award for me. It was also an award for Coach Dallas, Dustin, the strength and conditioning coach, Jess, the athletics trainer, and everyone involved that helped to make this happen.”