Michael Lewis

Collegiate goals accomplished…soccer winners move on to compete in other arenas

by Michael Lewis December 13, 2010 in Men’s Soccer


It should not be surprising that North Carolina midfielder Ali Hawkins and Akron midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong earned the women’s and men’s honors for the 2010 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

After all, it has never about them. It has always been about someone or something else.

Their reaction to winning the awards said it all.

“It’s an honor,”  Ampaipitakwong said. “I take it as a team award. My team helped me get this award for all of the years I put into this program. I gave back to the community because of so much they have done for our program.”

Hawkins had similar sentiments.

“It’s such an honor because it’s an award that doesn’t just recognize athletic achievement but also academic and social contribution,” she said. “It really recognizes what Carolina is all about. I love this place. This is an award that recognizes this institution as well.”

Both student-athletes not only excelled on the field, but in many other areas that comprise the Lowe’s CLASS ideals—community, classroom, character and competition.

College certainly has been a balancing act, making sure students haven’t neglected their academics while finding time to contribute to their community.

“There are time restrictions,” Hawkins said. “The extra curricular activities that I was involved in were so much fun that it didn’t really seem as though it was taking away from the time I had on campus. It was really something that I enjoyed. Even though it was a time commitment, I didn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Ampaipitakwong said it was “just getting your work done right away . . . so you can focus on soccer and focus on things outside of soccer.”

They certainly hit the books frequently. Hawkins forged a 3.8 grade-point average as a dual major in economics and political science. Ampaipitakwong had a 3.34 GPA in business administration and sports management.

They also found time to give something back to the community.

Since he started attending Akron, Ampaipitakwong has been involved with every community service team event. His most notable contribution was 20 hours of volunteer work at ACCESS, a shelter for homeless women and children. He also worked with Habitat for Humanity.

“The shelter would house the mothers for a month or two while the mother tried to find a job,” he said. “I would go there with another one of my teammates once or twice a week and play with the kids. I played basketball with them, did activities with them. With the mothers, sometimes yoga stretches with them or we would do some kind of exercise like Pilates or a workout.”

Not only did Hawkins give back, she turned into a leader as well, helping form an intercollegiate group, Student Athletes Leading Social Change. The group allows student-athletes to promote and participate in local, national and international social development. SALSC organized a soccer clinic for 50 children in Kenya, raising money for female development through sport and education.

“I heard a lot of athletes on campus talking about how they would like to get involved and really make a difference socially,” said Hawkins, who had to limit her activities because of school commitments. “The organization now is awesome. It is a great way for many student athletes to get together and make a tangible difference.”

Hawkins and Ampaipitakwong also found their own mountains to climb.

For Hawkins, it was an ACL tear that sidelined her for the 2007 season. She learned something about herself as she sat out a season. That wasn’t easy for someone who captained two Division I championship teams and played on a third.

“It was really difficult,” she said. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed it for a moment, not only because I got a fifth year here and this fifth year has been a great experience, but also what I learned from that year off. It really gave me the ability to put soccer in perspective. Before that happened, my focus at Carolina was soccer. When that was taken away, I was really able to focus on my academics and also extra curricular [activities]. . . . It forced me to look outside of soccer and what life had to offer me at Carolina.”

For Ampaipitakwong, it was the agony of losing in last year’s Division I men’s championship game in a penalty-kick shootout after Akron went undefeated. This year the Zips returned to the College Cup final and defeated Louisville on an 11th-hour goal.

Ampaipitakwong said the Zips had “a hunger” to get back to the championship game, that they had “a drive to get back to that College Cup and finish one of the goals that we left short last year. . . . It [was] on everyone’s mind.”

Hawkins and Ampaipitakwong had disparate goals on playing pro soccer.

Ampaipitakwong hoped that he will be drafted by a team in January’s Major League Soccer draft.

“I try not to think about it now,” he said. “I try to focus on college. That’s been a dream, a goal of mine since I’ve been very little.

“It’s been a personal goal. My family has been supporting me. I just want to show to them all the hard work they also put in has paid off. I want to do it for my family, to give back to them and say that everything worked out at the end.”

Despite her success, Hawkins has decided to forgo a pro career in women’s professional soccer. Instead, in February she will join Goldman Sachs in New York City as an investment banking analyst.

“I’m not going to be entering the draft,” she said. “It’s going to be kind of a non-issue. I’m really excited to start working at Goldman. “I don’t want to do it competitively any more. I would rather just watch my friends excel at that.”

Walking away from a sport in which she has stood out—Hawkins also was a member of several U.S. youth national teams—hasn’t been easy.

“It is difficult,” she said. “I have found from the last two weeks that I have been playing pickup games, when I get out there the competitive nature comes back in. But I’m excited to see where that sort of competitiveness will take me in different avenues. I’ll miss the sport. But I think I will have enough competition in other arenas.”

Michael Lewis can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).