Among the 350 Wilton High School seniors who will walk at graduation on June 24 is one student who was not anticipating graduating this year. WHS junior and varsity field hockey goalie Emma Likly made the surprising decision to graduate a year early along with Wilton’s senior class of 2017 and matriculate as part of Syracuse University’s Class of 2021.

Likly has been playing field hockey since the third grade with Wilton’s youth program, and eventually began playing goalie. In high school, she played for the freshman team, then junior varsity, and this past year was her first year as a full varsity player. “Everybody on the high school team really cares and wants to do well, so it was a great environment that definitely pushed me,” says Likly.

When she opted to continue playing field hockey in college., Likly originally started looking at smaller, Division III schools.

“Then, I started hearing from a bunch of Division I schools, and I thought, ‘Oh, I can actually do this.’ It was crazy, and it all happened so quickly and unexpectedly. I was also looking at much smaller schools, so it was definitely an eye-opener for me,” she recalls.

She had some familiarity with Syracuse after going there for camps and other field hockey events in prior years, and so Likly committed spring of her sophomore year to joining the Syracuse Orange starting in August 2018. She knew she’d be playing goalie for one of the most elite Division I schools in the country, but then she got a surprising text question from the Syracuse Coach.

“I got a text over the [long] weekend February, and she said: ‘Is it a possibility that you’d have an interest in coming a year early?’ And I was like, ‘I can look into it.’ Then we had Monday off, and on Tuesday I was in [WHS principal] Dr. O’Donnell’s office talking to him about it. By Wednesday my schedule was completely changed to fill all the requirements to graduate.”

As for the academic aspect of college, Likly will be taking classes just like all the other students. In face, after committing to come a year early for athletics, Likly had to rush to apply late, and get in on her own merit.

“I’m going to Newhouse, which is the communications school. It’s something I’m really interested in, so I’m really looking forward to taking classes that are very much related to what I want to do when I’m older. I want to do something in PR or advertising. I don’t really know because I had to apply so quickly.”

With the help of the Wilton High School staff and her family, Likly is all set to be a college freshman, however early. She would like to give a “huge thanks to everyone who’s helped me along the way, because I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Everyone at the high school was so helpful, and thanks to all my coaches and teammates.”

Once she arrives on campus, she will be greeted with familiar faces and easily get integrated into the Syracuse community. “I know a bunch of people, and I know a bunch of girls who are in my class now. I met them way before I knew I was going early so I already had relationships with them. I already know who my roommate is and she’s really awesome. She’s on the team; we all room together. We call ourselves the Syracuse hockey family.”

At Syracuse, Likly will play in NCAA and ACC tournaments with other elite athletic universities. Although Likly’s circumstances are extremely rare, she is excited to begin her college life at age 17. “It was just a year sooner, which I didn’t mind because I love it there.”