By ALICEN HACKNEY
This past year, UMW athletics has had their spotlight shined and brightened. Collectively the varsity teams have done better this year than years previous, all while also succeeding academically.
Since 2014, the women’s volleyball team has seen more wins under coach Matt Troy than previously recorded. The men’s baseball team achieved a #12 national rating in 2016, which is being followed by a strong season so far this year. Other teams with consistently high rankings include impressive records from the field hockey team, the men’s soccer team and both the men’s and women’s tennis teams.
“Athletics has always had a high priority on academics and making sure student athletes are successful in the classroom,” said volleyball coach Matt Troy. “With our fall team grade point average coming in at 3.53, we are excited to be in position for our goal as we wrap up the spring semester,” said Troy.
Troy keeps his team in academic shape by meeting and going beyond the standards of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award, which requires that teams meet an average GPA of 3.3.
On average, students on varsity teams come in their freshman year as teammates and play throughout their years here. Many of them report greater success overall and an ease of the high school to college transition through the athletics department.
“I had a very smooth transition,” said freshman basketball player Riley Welch. “I believe the FSEM program helped me out a lot in my first semester. As far as the athletic side, yes we have a very busy schedule; however, our coaches and the entire athletic department do a great job of emphasizing that academics take priority over athletics, so that makes it easier to balance both aspects.”
On top of aiding in the transition period, the athletic department supports student athletes throughout the year by providing study hall sessions for every team and a rigorous schedule that helps students keep everything on track.
“[My coach] always asks how we’re doing in our classes,” said sophomore softball player Courtney Shea. “If you are struggling, oftentimes she’ll create a study hall for you, or if it’s during season, will tell you to take a day off to focus on classes.” said Shea. “I believe that balance is exactly how it should be. I chose to play division III to have this balance, and if I wanted to put my sport above everything, this is the wrong place.”
“I think [athletic life] has better prepared me from a discipline standpoint,” said senior basketball player Eric Shaw. “I find it difficult, now that I’m done with basketball at school, to choose to do my work because of the amount of free time I now have.”
Many students have reported that their daily schedule is significantly busier during season, and throughout the year as a whole for some students like junior Daniel Reed whose seasons on the cross country team run year round both indoor and outdoor.
Student athletes’ average in-season day consists of classes in the morning until a set time. For the volleyball team, this means their classes end by 2 p.m. according to sophomore Rachel Voketaitis. This is followed by an on average three hour practice, and then two days a week there is an hour and 15 minute study hall.
With the success both on and off the playing field of choice, the visibility of the athletic department has increased. For instance, students noticed when athletic director Ken Tyler added department vehicles to use as recruitment vehicles back in the fall of 2017.
“I feel that, because we have been doing so well on the athletic side of things,
that more people are noticing what an amazing school UMW is academically and athletically and are wanting to be a part of it,” said Voketaitis.
Prospective student athletes and their families are showing interest in what UMW has to offer with greater excitement than previously seen according to current student athletes. This new pull puts UMW on the map in a much broader way, and varsity sports look forward to the growth of interest in their success in the years to come.