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For the Love of the Game

Rensselaer’s Division III athletes play with the same passion and desire to win as their Division I counterparts. And for many women athletes, the benefits of playing in the lower division outweigh the Division I lure of full scholarships and more exposure.

Varsity field hockey assistant captain Jen Amyot ’02 says attending a Division III school meant she would get to play. She also prefers the freedom to take part in a second sport—indoor track—while Division I athletes are limited by NCAA rules to one sport. Although Amyot says she was not a stand-out player in high school, she was soon starting every game at Rensselaer after initially sitting on the bench. “The other girls on the team are so good, once you start playing with them you get better,” she says.

“We’re blessed with very talented players,” says field hockey coach Bridget LaNoir ’99. “We had a great group of young women who were willing to learn and willing to put in the time.”

When LaNoir returned to Rensselaer last fall to take the helm of the field hockey team, she brought with her the experience of playing on the first varsity women’s hockey team as well as varsity field hockey. “I was attracted to Rensselaer as a student because of the whole package: the opportunity to play two sports and get a great education.” Now, she’s coaching two varsity sports—she also heads up the women’s lacrosse team, which begins its 2002 season this month.

“RPI students have great reputations as students; now they’re becoming known as good athletes as well,” LaNoir says.

As a Red Hawk playing in a field hockey New York state tournament quarter final game, LaNoir remembers looking at the roster for the opposing team, SUNY Cortland, and noting that most of the players were physical education majors. “Our team was full of players majoring in science, math, engineering.” Today, LaNoir says, Rensselaer women are beginning to dominate on the field as well as in the classroom.

LaNoir and other coaches agree that part of the credit for the improvement in the women’s teams goes to the addition of Jon Rowan, a full-time strength and conditioning coach, to the Mueller Center staff. “This has been great for all the sports programs,” LaNoir says, adding that her players take part in a weight lifting program and they work on agility skills.

Men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Shannon O’Brien says recent success in the pool has gained the Red Hawks respect among other league teams. “They no longer see us as an ‘easy win.’ They have to strategize when they compete against us,” she says. Rensselaer dominated last year’s NYSWCAA championships, winning the 200-meter medley relay and the 400-meter freestyle relay. Meghan Hartman ’04 also was named “Swimmer of the Meet” after winning the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and the 200-meter breast stroke.

O’Brien says both her teams are strengthened by the camaraderie that has developed between the men and women swimmers and divers as they practice, train, and travel to meets together. “They help each other out in the water and there’s a lot of daily chitchat about classes and tests and upcoming competitions,” she says.

As Division III women athletes, Rensselaer’s Engineers and Red Hawks are keenly aware that this may be the height of their sports careers. “After four years, we’ll walk away with a degree and our memories,” says Julie Durham. “The men can keep their hockey dreams alive by playing in the pros.”

But Durham adds that she wouldn’t trade a moment of her time at Rensselaer for more sports glory. “I love the hockey program and the phenomenal education I may not have gotten at a Division I school.”

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Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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