Richard Stockton College senior Sarah Walsh finished field hockey practice, then hustled to the library for a few hours of studying. She panicked when she discovered she couldn’t take notes.

“I didn’t have a pencil,” Walsh, a Tuckerton resident, recalled with a laugh about that day in the fall. “But I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. I sent out a text, and I got four responses in a matter of seconds from teammates who were already at the library. That’s the kind of team we had. We were very good at helping each other out on and off the field.”

That camaraderie paid off in several ways. The Ospreys enjoyed their most successful field hockey season in history, winning a school-record 12 games and qualifying for both the New Jersey Athletic Conference and Eastern College Athletic Conference tournaments for the first time in the 11-year history of the program.

Greater success came in the classroom, however. Last Thursday, they learned they had earned the second-highest grade-point average among NCAA Division III field hockey programs for the fall semester with a 3.57. Only the team at Springfield College in Massachusetts had a higher average GPA, at 3.59.

“We’re really proud of getting that honor,” Ospreys coach Michelle Andre said. “We also had our best season on the field, so it’s been a banner year for us.”

The Ospreys finished with a Top 5 GPA for the third time since Andre took over as head coach in 2009. They also finished second in 2009 and tied for fourth in 2012 with a 3.54.

In addition to the team award, 20 of Stockton’s 26 players qualified as Division III Academic All-Americans by registering cumulative GPAs of 3.30 or higher.

Jenny Carpenter, an Absegami High School graduate from Egg Harbor City, was among four Stockton seniors to earn that honor all four years. Carpenter, who has a 3.70 cumulative GPA, will graduate in May with a degree in biology and is headed to the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies.

“The coach is always stressing to us that we are student-athletes and student comes before athlete,” said Carpenter, who is also playing lacrosse for the Ospreys this spring. “Playing sports and working toward a degree is difficult sometimes, but it teaches you to be disciplined and to make sure you get your studying done before anything else.”

Andre, a Pennsauken native, has always realized the importance of finding that balance between academics and athletics. She was a three-sport standout at Rowan University — field hockey, softball, lacrosse — while earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and obtaining a master’s degree in higher education administration.

Prior to joining the Ospreys, she was head field hockey coach at Rochester University in New York. In 2006, Rochester set a school record for wins with 13 and posted the fourth-highest GPA in the nation.

“One of the things I look for when I’m recruiting is the total student-athlete,” Andre said. “I look for people who are going to put themselves out on the field and in the classroom. You don’t play field hockey just to be a .500 team. You play to win championships, and I feel the same way in the classroom. I always want my players to achieve.”

Few players have achieved as much as Walsh, a Pinelands Regional High School graduate.

She spent three years at Stockton earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics while registering a 3.58 GPA. She is now in her first semester at Rutgers University in New Brunswick as part of a program that enables her to earn another bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Walsh could have enrolled at Rutgers in the fall but opted to stay at Stockton to play her fourth year of field hockey.

“I was the only senior that was a walk-on on the team,” Walsh said. “Everyone else was recruited while I received an academic scholarship. I thought about commuting from Tuckerton but realized I wouldn’t make any friends if I didn’t get involved on campus, so I went out for field hockey, and I fell in love with my teammates and the atmosphere.”

Carpenter, Walsh and the other seniors are counting on the returning players to carry on Stockton’s tradition of academic and athletic excellence.

Returnees include junior Brittany Iveson (Barnegat), sophomore Averi Olive (Sea Isle City, Hammonton High School) and freshman Molly McElwee (Manahawkin, Southern Regional).

“There’s something about a Stockton kid,” Andre said. “They are very grounded, but they also want to achieve. What a joy it’s been for me to coach them.”

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