Martin Renzhofer

Pride in Classroom Leads to Off Field Winners

by Martin Renzhofer December 13, 2008 in Women's Soccer

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Maybe because the sport relies on 90 minutes of concentration, knowing one slip can mean the difference between victory and defeat, women’s soccer attracts its share of classroom achievers.

For example, Cache Valley is the home of Utah State. The campus and town are located somewhat isolated in an open pocket of the Wasatch Mountains in northern Utah.

Unless the college landscape shifts with a sudden, unexpected jolt, Utah State will never be known as a power base for women’s soccer – on the field. In the classroom, however, USU is nearly unbeatable.

In many ways, 2008 was a year of firsts for the Aggies, who won their first Western Athletic Conference championship, sweeping through the regular season with a perfect 7-0 record, which was another first.

Off the pitch, however, it was the same old success story for USU’s players and coach Heather Cairns, who, for the sixth year in a row earned the National Soccer Coaches of America/Adidas Team Academic Award after posting a 3.31 grade point average.

Of course, the combination of full-on study and practice habits are NCAA wide. The teams that made up this year’s NCAA College Cup Final Four – UCLA, Stanford, Notre Dame and champion North Carolina – included plenty of academic achievers.

National runner up Notre Dame’s roster included senior All-America forward Kerri Hanks, named the 2008 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner. Hanks’ teammate Brittany Bock was among the 10 finalists for this year’s Lowe’s award.

Bock and senior defender Elise Weber were named to the ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District V First Team. The Irish now have 22 Academic All-Americans in the past 14 seasons.

North Carolina’s senior midfielder Yael Averbuch was selected as the Academic All-America of the Year. She is the second Tar Heel in three seasons to win the award. Meanwhile, Stanford had five players selected to the Pac 10 first and second team all-academic teams, including Rachel Buehler who managed a 4.00 in Human Biology/Pre-Med.

Typically, there are times when travel cuts into study time. Airport terminals and bus rides have become study halls for these student-athletes.
“This year was especially hectic,” said Utah State senior Candice Clark, a native of Provo who scored five goals in 2008. “You have to talk to professors, and a lot of my professors have been good about getting work done early.  But it took a lot of effort.”

When teams take as much pride in classroom achievements as there is on the field, then the players remain winners long after completing their on-field careers.

Studying inside airports might be akin to running extra laps. Both lead to success.