Updated: Aug 20, 2019
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos courtesy of Niagara University Athletics
It seems that when talking about student-athletes the word student gets taken out of the equation. People are more intrigued by the athlete part when a student is in college.
I guess you can say it’s a lot sexier.
But, the student is just as is important as the athlete. Without the grades, the student can get on the court, field, ice or diamond. Not everyone is turning pro after four years of college. Not everyone has those nice sponsorship deals waiting for them when their college career is over.
For most, the four year experience of playing college athletics is all they will have. They will then have to venture out in the world and find what is their next goals in life. For a student, taking their academics seriously is just as important as scoring the game winning goal.
Niagara University women’s lacrosse player Hailey D’Hont knows what it takes to succeed on and off the field. The senior midfielder is a two-time All-Academic award winner, and takes her studies very important.
She also loves the fact that she can get a great education from Niagara while playing the sport that she has loved for as long as she can imagine.
“It is very rewarding to be named to the All-Academic team two years in a row. It shows that the work in the classroom pays off, and that the MAAC wants their athletes to succeed not only on the field but also as students in the classroom,” stated D’Hont. “It’s a great experience to be able to have success in the classroom as well as playing a sport that I love for four years. It is really a unique experience being able to do both.”
It’s not like anyone can just step on the campus of Niagara University and have success. The Catholic university is known for its academic rigors and Division I sports. For more students just stepping on campus and trying to get their footing as a freshman is hard enough.
For D’Hont, she was balancing freshman life with the fact that she was now a Division I athletes. Trying to managing both came as a challenge at times, but D’Hont was able to work through it.
“Being able to balance lacrosse and school work is a lot about time management,” stated D’Hont. “Knowing what school work you have in advance, and trying to get it done ahead of time, especially if I know I have a busy lacrosse schedule coming up.”
D’Hont has been busy on the field. She was thrown into the fire right away as a freshman for the Purple Eagles. That experience, she feels, helped her during her career.
Being able to play so many games early on, and getting a feel of what is expected of a Division I athlete, helped D’Hont excel during her time at Niagara. It also helped that she had a sister go through the same thing at rival Canisius College.
Her sister, Lauren, was a four-year standout at Canisius and someone that Hailey could look up to for guidance during the early part of her career.
“It was an amazing experience to have been able to play in so many games my freshman year. It helped with my confidence in the past few years. My past three years have been such an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” stated D’Hont. “My sister Lauren and I have always had a great relationship growing up. We were always there for each other through everything. Having her go through the same process that I went through was comforting, she was there if I had any questions, or just wanted to talk about it.”
While her older succeed on the hardwood, it’s Hailey that is tearing it up on the turf. She has been one of the biggest reasons why Niagara has been able to turn its program around over the past couple years.
Her play in the midfield has helped put Niagara in the discussion of being a team to beat in the MAAC. For that to happen, however, the Purple Eagles need to find away to get past rival Canisius.
The Griffs have been the dominating force of the MAAC for years, and a measuring stick for other programs. They also just happen to be Niagara’s biggest rival.
“We just have to play our game and not let the competition get to us. If we play our game and stick to what we know how to do, we can get there. It is important to rely on your practices, not to get too overwhelmed with everything at once. Think about things step by step or one thing at a time, the rest of the big picture will fall into place little by little,” stated D’Hont. “In the summer I play in a league with a bunch of other college players, including a handful from Niagara. This is a fun opportunity to get to play a little more of the sport I love with some of your friends.”
If Niagara can reach its goals this year, D’Hont knows she will have some bragging rights at home. While they played different sports in college, it’s till Niagara and Canisius. It’s still two sisters who went to rival schools.
It would be nice for the younger D’Hont to be able to have something to talk about during all those family dinners during the holidays.
“It was always a joke in the house how we went to rivalry schools. The good thing was that we played different sports in different seasons, so it was all friendly joking,” said D’Hont. “It was awesome being able to go to each other’s games and support each other.”