The basement of the Axinn Library on Hofstra's campus is known for its comfy furniture, spaciousness and prime studying real estate. But there's another fixture to be found there: members of the Hofstra field hockey team.
"We don't have to set up meetings anymore. We always study in the same place," sophomore forward/midfielder Stella Schoen said. "Automatically, if you go to the library basement, you'll find someone from the field hockey team you can study with."
It's all a part of the academics-first culture that coach Kathy De Angelis has worked to establish during her 17 years at the helm of the program. This past season, it bred especially impressive numbers -- 18 players from Hofstra were named to the 2014 Gladiator by SGI/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I National Academic Squad, which recognizes student-athletes who achieved a 3.30 grade-point average or better during the fall semester of the 2014-15 academic year.
They are: seniors Jonel Boileau and Marta Penas, juniors Lauren del Valle and Charlotte Loehr, redshirt sophomore Leigh Maxwell-Smith, sophomores Sauni Davenport, Shannon Dougherty, Emily Gallagher, Colby Hussong, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Claudia Marin Samper, Stella Schoen and Carissa Witmer, redshirt freshman Lauren Saltus, and newcomers Matilda Hallett, Savanna Malloy, Simca Schoen and Carys Swan.
The 18 honorees from Hofstra are tied for the most with Liberty University in Division I. Hofstra, which finished the season with a 12-7 record, also received a 2014 Gladiator by SGI/NFHCA Division I National Academic Team Award earlier this month for achieving a cumulative 3.44 team GPA.
"We stress the fact that academics is No. 1 and hockey is always going to be No. 2 from the moment they step foot on campus," De Angelis said. "They understand their priority is to get a degree, so when they leave Hofstra, they're prepared for the next step.
"We try to re-establish that type of culture every year. Because if the culture is there, it's easier for incoming freshmen to buy in and put into it right away."
De Angelis checks in regularly during the season to make sure her student-athletes are keeping up with their academics.
"Kathy gets progress reports from our professors and academic advisers. It helps us stay disciplined, and that carries over on to the field," Boileau said. "The last couple of years, we've consistently been one of the highest in the nation academically. It's become the standard, and it's something she can stress to new recruits."
The culture has created a domino effect, where the upperclassmen who have excelled at balancing sports and academics have helped their younger teammates adjust.
"It's such a supportive group," Stella Schoen said. "The older students are always helping with any issues, and they sometimes even tutor."
For Stella Schoen, who, along with Hallet was named an NFHCA Scholar of Distinction for achieving a 3.90 GPA or better during the 2014 season, a large part of it comes down to scheduling and staying organized.
"I have my classes early in the morning when my mind is fresh," she said. "Then I go to practice and am able to clear my head. Later, I'll go to the library to do homework and study.
"I've had that routine since day one. It's thanks to the environment our coaches create, and then all the support and reinforcement from the juniors and seniors on the team."