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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer excels in the classroom, earns the College Team Academic Award for 2015-16

Alex McIntyre

The Arizona women’s soccer team celebrates after the first goal of its win against Oregon State at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Oct. 25, 2015. The Wildcats spoiled the Beavers’ Senior Day on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, with a comfortable 3-0 victory. 

The Arizona soccer team was a recipient of the College Team Academic Award for the 2015-2016 academic year, the NSCAA announced last Thursday.

The award was given to teams that demonstrated “exemplary performance in the classroom as a team during the 2015-2016 academic year,” according to the NSCAA’s website.

Teams needed to have a team GPA of 3.0 or higher to qualify for the honor, and Arizona checked in at 3.13.

Then-senior Sheaffer Skadsen was named as an Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America in 2015, being one of two players in the country to hold a 4.0 GPA. Two players —Jaden DeGracie-Bailey and Lexe Selman Richards—were named to Pac-12 All-Academic teams and eight other Wildcats were honorable mentions.

Arizona had a 14-6-2 record on the field in 2015, making it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history. 

“You want to be a complete program in all aspects,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said. “And that’s a part of it, and we’re always proud of that, and want to make sure that’s our minimum standard—that we’re getting recognized as a whole for achieving that NSCAA award—and hopefully even push them beyond that.”

The team’s success in the classroom is a reflection of Amato’s history as a student-athlete. The head coach, who’s a graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, was the Student-Athlete of the Year his senior season in 2000 and received Academic All-American and Sunshine State Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors during his four-year career.

“It is important to me. I did my master’s degree; I was a good student as a student-athlete and hopefully that can kind of bleed from me into the team in that way that I approach that,” he said.

Amato is constantly reminding his players to attend class and tutoring sessions to keep them focused on their studies.

“I go to academic meetings with our academic advisors and I read progress reports,” Amato said. “And I think the team knows I’m pretty connected to that.”

It can be easy for his players to get off track, as one could imagine. The team usually practices twice every week, has two games every week and, occasionally, almost week-long road trips.

This week, for instance, the Wildcats practice in Tucson on Monday and Tuesday then travel to Eugene, Oregon, on Wednesday for a Thursday-night match against the Ducks. Once that match concludes, they’ll head to Corvallis, Oregon, to play Oregon State on Sunday, before traveling back to Tucson.

That doesn’t include the time spent shuttling between hotels and restaurants or scurrying through airport terminals. In short, there’s not a lot of time for schoolwork.

      Related: Arizona soccer’s ACL ‘twins’ take on the recovery trail together

“It’s tough for sure. You’re just so focused on soccer and everything and you’re tired from that, but you have to buckle down,” Arizona goalkeeper Lainey  Burdett said. “When you have downtime, you use that time to do homework and anything else you need to do for school.”

Weeks like these are routine for the Wildcats during the season, which spans from August to November.

“You just have to stay in touch with classmates and stay up with class notes and get those so you’re not too far behind,” said Arizona midfielder Gabi Stoian, who doubled as Arizona’s points leader and a Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention in 2015.

Because their season coincides with the start of the academic year, the student-athletes are only allowed to take a maximum of four classes—12 units—during the fall semester.

“Personally, I try to take easier classes in the fall and make my schedule a little bit easier,” said Stoian, who has one class each on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and two classes on Wednesday. “I’m signed up for five classes next semester and a lab. I try to fill my spring schedule a little more than the fall one.”

While a loaded schedule consisting of practices, workouts, games and road trips can make grades feel secondary at times, they can’t be overlooked. After all, that’s why the student-athletes are in Tucson in the first place.

“As much time as we commit to soccer and want to perform on the field and be the best that we can, we also know that we have to keep our grades up and we’re here to graduate in four years,” Stoian said. “It’s tough, but you learn to balance.”

The Arizona soccer team has done so quite well.

You can follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter for more Arizona women’s soccer coverage. Click here for past coverage.

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