It was befitting that Emma Rogers was the first player of the Northern Arizona Juniors 2017 class to sign a letter of intent.
"For several years she always played a year ahead of her age group, and she's always fought really hard to be the best she could be," said Angela Davis, club director at NAJ.
Surrounded by peers, family and coaches at Sinagua Middle School on Tuesday, Rogers signed a full-ride athletic scholarship to play for the Casper College Thunderbirds, a NJCAA Division I team located in Wyoming.
"It was a little unnerving not being signed until now, but it's been a great senior year for her both in high school and her club season," Davis said.
Only a few weeks ago, the Flagstaff High senior wasn't sure where she would take her volleyball career. Then the process went into full swing.
About two weeks ago at a tournament in Las Vegas, the Thunderbirds coach watched Rogers play. The coach contacted Rogers, and not long after Rogers traveled to work out with the team and check out the campus, where she plans to study political science.
"It was exciting for us, because it was great that somebody recognized her talent and watched her play," Emma's mother A.J. said.
A standout setter during her long volleyball career, Rogers this season helped lead the Flagstaff Eagles to a 15-2 regular-season record and into the quarterfinals of the 4A Conference state tournament. Overall, she led the team in assists with 915, recorded a team-high 48 aces and was third in digs at 311.
For her excellence at the position, Rogers was named to the All-Conference First Team and All-Region First Team as a setter.
"Her whole family is so proud of her and of how hard she has worked. She started when she was 10," A.J said.
Joining a young Thunderbirds team that is coming off a 17-17 season in which they went 9-7 in conference action, Rogers will stay at the setter position.
With the signing process occurring so quickly, Rogers said she has not fully realized that she is set to start the next chapter of her career.
"We always joke around that I am a collegiate-level athlete now, I can do whatever I want," she said wearing a smile. "But no, definitely not, especially about leaving. Going to Wyoming is so crazy, and I love my family so much, it's going to be hard, so I am pretending that there is a lot of time before I have to go."
The decision to join Casper College, however, came smoothly for Rogers, who said the team and the school immediately felt like a good fit. She had a couple other schools show interest in her, but she said they didn't offer the full ride and didn't seem as a good of a fit. Moreover, Rogers said the Thunderbirds coach reminds her of Eagles head coach Beth Haglin.
Haglin and Rogers won a D-III state title together in 2013, a season after the Eagles won a D-II championship.
Considering all of the experience she has on the court, Rogers said she feels confident about moving ahead.
"I think I am ready mentally and athletically," Rogers said.