Photo by Kris Qua
When the horn sounded to end the fiercely contested ECAC Northeast title game in womens soccer Nov. 4 between Rensselaer and St. Lawrence University, the victorious Red Hawks celebrated their 2-0 win by leaping in the air and then piling on each other as they erupted in joy.
It was magical, says team captain Heather Bauby 02, who kicked in the winning goal in the game at Harkness Field that remained scoreless through the first half. It was an unbelievable feeling to win that game and a great way to end the season and my career, she says. The victory capped off the womens varsity soccer teams best season ever as they ended with a record of 17-3-0.
With women representing only 24 percent of the student population at Rensselaer, how is the Institute producing championship teams while sustaining varsity programs in 11 sports for women? A combination of factors is at work, including strong support by the Institute for womens athletics, the growing expectations of young women who have participated in team sports from very young ages, and the exceptional drive of student athletes who strive to achieve with the same intensity in competition as they do in the classroom.
The growing diversity and multidisciplinary nature of majors at Rensselaer also has been attracting quality athletes interested in a highly regarded, cutting-edge education. Rensselaers coaches and athletics administrators also cite the elimination of the physical education requirement in the mid-1990s as a move that freed coaches, who had been the instructors, to go on the road and recruit top-rate athletes. And a league championship is a coachs most valuable recruiting tool.
The word is getting out about the success of our womens teams, says Kerry Quinn, associate athletics director. The Institute also will be embarking on a process to raise one of these teams to the Division I level in the next several years (see Long Division).
Athletics are important in educating tomorrows leadersespecially in the areas of recruitment and retention. About 70 percent of Rensselaers incoming first-year students played varsity sports in high school, and more than 20 percent were team captains. Strong programs in athletics can convince these academically outstanding athletes to attend Rensselaer, and they help to create a dynamic campus environment, promote a healthy quality of life, and a release from the demands of a rigorous academic schedule.
Womens and mens athletics share strong support from President Shirley Ann Jackson and The Rensselaer Plan. The plan advocates strengthening the programs as part of the effort to enhance student life. One goal is to ensure full-time coaching staff for all womens and mens intercollegiate sports programs. (With the recent hiring of a full-time womens softball coach, mens golf remains the only sport not to have a full-time coach.) The plan also recommends the replacement or renovation of athletic facilities in keeping with an Institutewide capital plan, an improvement athletic coaches and administrators say is crucial to the future success of the program.
It is our expectation to continue to elevate the quality of the varsity experience for women athletes at Rensselaer, says Eddie Ade Knowles, vice president for student life. Achieving the vision for athletics will enable us to increase our competitive advantage in the 21st century, as we seek to recruit women who are among the best on the playing field and brightest in the classroom.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002|
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