On March 20, the Kean University field hockey team was awarded a Zag Field Hockey/NFHCA Division III National Academic Team Award. This award is only presented to teams that have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher for the fall semester, which the Cougars met and surpassed with a team GPA of 3.6. Only 131 Division III Field Hockey teams, including the Cougars, earned the distinction this season.
The team also had 19 of its players named to the 2017 Zag Field Hockey/NFHCA Division III National Academic Squad, which requires a GPA of 3.30 or higher for the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year.
Players McKenna Ferraro and Kayla Molnar had the additional honor of being named Division III Scholars of Distinction. Both were selected for earning a GPA of 3.9 or higher during the fall semester.
Ferraro is a freshman therapeutic recreation major and a forward for her team. She dedicated herself to her responsibilities as a student-athlete from the start, and her efforts have paid off.
“When I found out that I was named a Division III Scholar of Distinction, I was proud of myself that I was able to start my college career on a positive note,” Ferraro said. “To be able to manage my time and maintain a good GPA is something I will strive to do each semester.”
As this marked only the first of Ferraro’s four athletic and academic seasons, she has high hopes for the rest of her Kean career. “As for next season, I hope that as a team we continue to grow from all of our major accomplishments from last season,” Ferraro said. “Being that my first year in this program was also our most successful year yet, it set the tone for how my next three years and each season to come should be.”
Molnar, a junior criminal justice major, plays right back for the Cougars. Apart from being an institution in the team’s lineup since her freshman year, she also has found major success in the classroom.
“It felt very rewarding being named a Division III Scholar of Distinction,” Molnar said. “I am a very dedicated student and it has been an amazing feeling to be recognized for my achievements off the field.”
While Molnar’s role as a student-athlete gives her a busier schedule than the typical college student, she finds that the challenge fuels rather than hinders her performances. “Balancing time between athletics and academics is something that I’ve had to do throughout my life, and it’s all about time management,” Molnar said.
“Luckily, my coach gives us a hard copy of our game and practice schedules throughout the year so it makes it easy to schedule time to sit down and get my work done," Molnar continued. "Being involved in sports my entire life has really helped me manage my time efficiently and I believe that it’s the reason I do so well academically.”
In addition to their exceptional academic success, field hockey is also coming off an outstanding playing season. The team scored a record-breaking 21 wins with only three losses.
Although they lost to the College of New Jersey in the NJAC Final, they earned their first ever bid to the NCAA tournament. The team managed to defeat Juniata College and Christopher Newport University and advance to the NCAA Elite 8 before falling to Franklin and Marshall College in the tournament quarterfinals. Had they beaten Franklin and Marshall, the Cougars would have made the NCAA Final Four.
Additionally, some of the players also earned numerous individual accolades, including two NFHCA All-American Team selections, two Synapse Sports All-American Team selections, and four All-ECAC selections.
Leslie LaFronz, the head coach, was named ECAC and NJAC Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to their numerous titles.
“Our field hockey team was so special this year because we had an amazing group of young women that were determined to excel. We had seven seniors that spearheaded this championship team. Over the past four years, they became best of friends, committed themselves to working hard, and created a winning atmosphere. It was such a fantastic season to watch their growth over the past few years and to see their hard work pay off, which was so rewarding.”
LaFronz began coaching this program in 2009, and Kean’s field hockey team has been awarded the Zag Field Hockey/NFHCA Division III National Academic Team Award every year since. Part of her coaching philosophy includes pushing her athletes to achieve just as much in the classroom as they do on the field, so she makes sure to stay involved in their academic lives and hold them to high standards. “It is important that our student-athletes excel in the classroom and I am always proud of their accomplishments,” LaFronz said. “We set academic goals for each season for our field hockey team. We also run study halls and have an Athletic Academic Enhancement Program in place.”
While field hockey is still celebrating their recent achievements, they have no intention of resting on their laurels. LaFronz and the field hockey players are already looking forward to next season and setting goals to continue the same academic and athletic excellence. “Next year, we will look to maintain the highest standards in the classroom. We had a team GPA of 3.6 this year which was extremely impressive,” LaFronz said. “And next year, we will look to rebuild as we are losing an excellent class of seniors including two all-Americans: Shauna LaMaina and Teresa Carr. Plus Krista LaMaina is graduating who had 85 career goals, setting all kinds of records.”
For the complete listings of the NFHCA Division III National Academic Team and Squad awardees, students can visit www.nfhca.org.