By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lion women's hockey team finds themselves at this point in league play, just one point behind the pace that the team set last year. Much like last year, the team feels like they are poised for a second half surge. With finals week quickly approaching, the team has one non-conference series against Princeton before they have a few weeks rest for winter break. However, as college students, the team must also deal with the added pressure of final exams and school work for the duration of their season. For the women's hockey team, embodying the student-athlete mentality is a big part of their culture and one they not only pride themselves in, but also excel at.
When many people watch collegiate athletics, all they see is what happens on the field, court, ice etc. However, some of the hardest work that these athletes do is as students in the classrooms. Penn State women's hockey team placed 22 players on the CHA All-Academic Team. This number was the highest in the conference, and the Nittany Lions were one of just two teams to place 20-plus student athletes as honorees. This year's Penn State hockey team is no different as once again the Nittany Lions are excelling in the classroom.
"This is such a motivated group," said Brandwene. "They are motivated in everything that they do and academics is no different. They do homework on the road and we don't even have to do mandatory study hall because they take care of the work themselves."
"You will see them working on the bus, you will see players studying during down time at the hotel, it makes it easy to manage them academically."
The team boasts a 3.35 cumulative GPA and also a perfect Academic Progress Rate, which is a multi-year measurement of student-athlete academic progress. The women's hockey program received The NCAA's Public Recognition Award which is bestowed on teams with an NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sport.
With finals week quickly approaching, academics are of primary importance to all Penn State students, including the women's hockey team. Although they have a road trip coming up, right before finals week, Brandwene says the teams focus on academics remains the same. He also stated that he isn't too worried about the team's ability to perform in the class room during finals week because of their motivation in that area.
"Because they are so motivated you know that they are always going to put in the work they need to when it comes to that area," said Brandwene. "I remind them, academics are first but when you get inside the glass use that as your sanctuary."
As the team has leaders on the ice, they also have leaders in the classroom.
"For them its leadership by example because of the hard work they put in," said Brandwene. "You can look at someone like Sarah Wilkie who just crushes it in the classroom, her preparation is second to none and she is very motivated."
The balance between school and sports can be very demanding, but the Penn State women's hockey team is very adept at focusing on the task at hand.
"It is tough at times, but overall I think we do a good job of focusing on hockey or school when we need to," said Paige Jahnke.
The Nittany Lions will have 120 competitive minutes inside the glass before finals week and the team is hoping that their trip to Princeton will provide themselves with a boost before finals week. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday night in Princeton.