NEWMAC awards 25 Emerson athletes spots on Academic All-Conference teams

Four+members+of+the+women%27s+volleyball+team+were+awarded+spots+on+the+NEWMAC+2020-21+Women%27s+Volleyball+Academic+All-Conference+Team.

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Tepper

Four members of the women’s volleyball team were awarded spots on the NEWMAC 2020-21 Women’s Volleyball Academic All-Conference Team.

By Joey DuBois, Deputy Sports Editor

The New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference Academic All-Conference Team for each fall sport was full of Emerson Lions, as 25 student-athletes were recognized for their achievements in the classroom earlier this month.

Emerson was represented by four members of the women’s volleyball team, eight members of the women’s soccer team, nine members of the men’s soccer team, and four members of the women’s cross country team. Each student-athlete was chosen for earning a minimum GPA of 3.5, being at least a second-year athlete at Emerson, and playing on their respective team for the whole semester.

Senior women’s volleyball outside hitter Grace Tepper knew she was going to be asked to be more than just a volleyball player when she came to Emerson. At Emerson, the idea of a “student-athlete” is emphasized from the recruiting process until graduation.

“Emerson is an expensive school, so I wanted a good academic program, to be able to afford it, and to play some good volleyball,” Tepper said in a phone interview. 

As a Division III school, Emerson is unable to offer athletic scholarships, nor does it have much leeway in getting students through the admissions process solely on an athletic basis. Academics are the key aspect of getting any student-athlete into the college, Athletic Director Patricia Nicol said.

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“I feel Division III and Emerson, we really epitomize and value the term ‘student-athlete,’” Nicol said in a phone interview. “We recruit student-athletes that are going to be successful academically as well as athletically.”

The college is also well-known outside of athletics for its focused curriculum, as it has been ranked as the No. 3 best communications college in the country and the No. 5 best film college in the country by College Gazette. According to head men’s soccer coach Bryan Harkin, most students attend Emerson for a specific major or program that is offered, which can potentially lead to missing out on some student-athletes. However, Harkin also sees the other side of that coin.

“The type of school Emerson is, they gotta want exactly what we have,” Harkin said in a phone interview. “So what I find is because we’re so niche, the type of student that we attract to Emerson really wants to be here, and they really want to do the type of degree that Emerson offers.”

Head men’s and women’s volleyball coach Ben Read echoed the importance of academics when recruiting.

“If you’re a good student, admissions is going to want you, and you’re more likely to get an academic scholarship,” Read said in a phone interview. “We all know that Emerson doesn’t exactly give the best financial aid, so earning an academic scholarship kind of helps fill the void of what people need.”

The attention coaches and administrators place on academics is not lost on the student-athletes. Sophomore women’s soccer and lacrosse player Hannah Beck explained that coaches are more than willing to help athletes if they need academic help during the season.

“They are very understanding and understand that academics come first at Emerson,” Beck said in a phone interview. “They make it really easy to value your academics.”

Sophomore men’s soccer defender Aidan Ferguson said student-athletes have faced trying times this year along with the rest of the Emerson community, dealing with the uncertainty of practices and when they will be able to resume normal competition. Ferguson said he is proud of his teammates for succeeding academically while dealing with other distractions.

“It just shows we have a group of hard working guys who are going to be persistent, even during COVID,” Ferguson said in a phone interview.

While Nicol is proud of seeing so many athletes recognized for their academic achievements, she said she is not necessarily surprised.

“The skill set they acquire as student-athletes, they’re very good with time management, very good at prioritizing their tasks, and our coaches understand that and support that,” Nicol said. “It’s a team effort. The faculty is wonderful, student support is wonderful. We’re just very proud because I know how much the athletes have on their plate, and they really come through.”

Head men’s and women’s cross country coach Brandon Fox said he appreciates the dedication his athletes display day in and day out, both when they’re running and in the classroom. 

“It really is no surprise at all,” Fox said in a phone interview. “This group of girls, in particular, they go above and beyond what’s asked of them. It’s not uncommon for them to be talking about what they’re working on outside of practice and running. I’m a lucky coach to be able to have them on the team.”