33 Fall student-athletes named to academic all-conference team

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

After a rigorous Fall 2021 campaign, 33 Emerson student-athletes were named to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Academic All-Conference team for their dedication to coursework during the season. 

The criteria to be nominated for the academic all-conference team is a 3.5 or higher GPA during the season. On top of their 33 selections, Athletic Director Patricia Nicol said the season also demonstrated their athletic prowess.

“Athletics and academics do not have to be mutually exclusive,” Nicol said in a phone interview. “You can be successful academically and you can be successful athletically and I think we really proved that this fall. We had the most successful fall season overall than we’ve ever had.”

The Lions increased their selections by eight over the Fall 2020 season, when the conference named student-athletes to the team despite no games being played. Nicol said the increase is reflective of the improvements that are continuing to be implemented into Emerson locker rooms.

“Success breeds success,” Nicol said. “As we become more successful academically, more people want to be a part of that. We can attract recruits who are really good students and on the athletic side.”

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Emerson has built a culture that fosters well-rounded student-athletes who can contribute on group presentations or set pieces, Nicol said. Men’s soccer head coach Daniel Toulson said the college tries to recruit players with those values in mind. 

“At the end of the day, we want guys who want to be good at everything they do,” Toulson said. “The classroom is no different. Typically when we’re recruiting players, a lot of the guys are from high academic backgrounds, because they have that drive to be good.” 

Sophomore middle-blocker Isabella Cubba, who was one of nine selections from the women’s volleyball team, said time management and communication were the keys to her success.

“Honestly, it means the world,” Cubba said. “I made sure from day one to kind of just be in touch with professors to stay on top of it. Always look for feedback and really worked to the best of my ability throughout that time. That really set me up as well for this year off to a great start.”

Cubba said it was difficult to regain the ability to seamlessly balance class and academics after fall sports were canceled amid the pandemic in 2020. 

“The hard thing was getting back into the swing of things,” Cubba said in an interview. “The long days, getting up early, and then you have the long evenings when maybe you’re away if you drive two hours for a game and then you don’t get back until almost midnight.”

The schedule for student-athletes has heavy impacts on their abilities to stay up to date but Cubba said she is thankful that professors at Emerson are understandable. Teams also attempt to curate a motivational space for other athletes.

“We have a pretty cohesive group who support each other,” Toulson said. “A lot of the guys are helping each other out in terms of motivating them in classes and being resources for each other.”

Cubba said the ability to collaborate with teammates on projects is a major upside.

“Everyone is there for one another,” Cubba said. “It’s very much a family and the team itself is another really beautiful thing. There are a couple of VMA majors on the team as well. Collaboration can occur and that is something that I love and I value that’s really nice to have.” 

Coaches are also checking on their players and Toulson said he ensures their players are staying on task and comfortable with their academic situation.

“Whenever we’re meeting with our guys, we’re always asking them how their classes are going and making sure they are excelling and have the resources they need,” Toulson said

Academics are on the top of the list for the athletics department, something Nicol said that she is very ecstatic about.

“The one thing I’m very proud of is that [academics] has been the priority of what we do here,” Nicol said. “It’s why our student-athletes are in college, to prepare for life, and our coaches, our administrators, our proponents, they support that.”