Submitted by Jennifer Lin, Emerson Athletics Media Relations
BOSTON, Mass. – Softball Head Coach Phil McElroy, the most successful coach in Emerson Athletics history, is headed into his 12th season at the helm of the two-time GNAC Champion program. But this season is different: for the first time, there's not a single senior on the team. The main reason being pure academic strength and success.
According to McElroy, there has been a trend of three-year players due to the tendency of Emerson students graduating early, a decision that was a practical one for junior infielder Nikki Delaney.
"Coming into college, I already had several AP credits from high school; so for me, it seemed the obvious choice to take a few summer courses and save myself an extra year of tuition as well as allow myself to move back to California and be closer to my family," Delaney said.
The team prides itself on its academic success and has the hardware to prove it. The 2012 team was awarded the NFCA All-Academic Team Ranking Award for the third time in program history. The award, which the team also won in 2007 and 2009, is given to the program with the highest team GPA in the NCAA.
Junior utility player Lauren Jacaruso also plans on graduating early in fall 2013 to enter the job market at the most opportune moment. Jacaruso hopes to obtain a career as a baseball sports agent, and her early graduation would allow her to begin working at the start of the season. But she acknowledges the difficulties of graduating early and its impact to the team.
"It's definitely harder for student-athletes to realize that graduating early is an option," Jacaruso said. "In high school, we're used to committing four years, whereas in college, leaving your team behind is a big decision."
"In many ways, it's an attribute of our team, that academics rank so highly with all of us," continued Jacaruso, "it doesn't make the decision easier to leave something we love, though. Emerson has given us an amazing education as well as opportunities to succeed post-grad that we're eager to start."
Although McElroy believes this season will be difficult without the seniors as leaders, he remains positive and confident on the aptitude of his players. In a poll of GNAC contemporaries, the Lions were picked to finish second in the conference behind only the incumbent GNAC Champions, St. Joe's of Maine.
"Our juniors are very capable of stepping up and filling those shoes, but it will take longer than normal for us to find the correct combination, as well as the best way to approach different situations," McElroy said.
Regardless, Jacaruso values the strong relationship she and her teammates share and looks forward to competing for another GNAC title this spring.
"The most important thing is that we're all really close and we support each other no matter what," Jacaruso said.
The Lions will kick off its 2013 campaign this weekend as the team travels to Florida where they'll play 11 games March 3–8. Its home opener at Rotch Field is set for March 22 against USJ.