NCAA honors Vassar grad Monica Feeley

Field Hockey stand-out, community activist Monica Feeley ’19 (above) trekked to Indianapolis on Oct. 20 to accept her award as a Top 9 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. Courtesy of Timothy Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos

Three-time All-Liberty League. 2018 All-Region. LL Defensive Player of the Year. Vassar field hockey’s first ever All-American. During her Vassar career, former field hockey player Monica Feeley ’19 established an unforgettable legacy on the field. Even after graduation, Vassar’s defensive star continues to add to her ever-impressive trophy case. On Oct. 20, Feeley was honored as a Top 9 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

The NCAA Woman of the Year ceremony rewards excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership for graduating female student-athletes across all three divisions of competition. Initially, 585 student-athletes submitted applications for the award. From there, the pool was narrowed down to 151 hopefuls. Next, the selection committee picked 10 student-athletes from each division in the NCAA, who became the Top 30 finalists. On Sept. 10, Feeley was announced as one of these finalists. Then, on Oct. 20, she was revealed as a Top 9 finalist—Vassar’s second-ever student-athlete to receive that recognition. “I was honestly so shocked [that] I don’t even think I have the words to express how I felt. I didn’t think I had a shot at Top 30, let alone Top 9, so it was quite a surprise,” said Feeley on her reaction to the honor. While this was certainly an impressive accomplishment, it’s no secret that Feeley’s long list of credentials set her up for this type of success.

Along with balancing field hockey and her academics, Feeley was involved with numerous volunteer efforts. With the rest of the field hockey team, she worked as a volunteer coach for a local field hockey league for young girls. Feeley also founded her own student organization with fellow former student-athlete Rachel Chernet ’19, called the Vassar Chapter of Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. The Chapter helped out with the children’s emergency section at the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie and also worked with Dutchess Outreach to distribute produce to individuals in need in the Poughkeepsie area. Through the Chapter, Feeley volunteered with local Hawk Meadow School to teach children about nutrition and farm-totable eating. There was no question Feeley fit the high standard of community involvement that is looked for to be a NCAA Woman of the Year finalist.

Along with her hours of countless community outreach, Feeley maintained a stellar GPA while managing a grueling biology-psychology double major. She was a biology student researcher for three years, and a student intern for biology and neuroscience classes and labs. Her great academic merit
did not go unnoticed in the sports world, as she accumulated All-Academic league honors all three years she was eligible, along with the 2018-19 Liberty League Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, 2018-19 CoSIDA All-Academic At-Large All-District First Team and 2018-19 CoSIDA All-Academic AtLarge All-American Second Team honors. Post-graduation, Feeley is taking a gap year working at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital doing HIV vaccine clinical trial research as she prepares for medical school.

Feeley’s mark extends beyond her graduation, as she continues to be a role model for Vassar’s current field hockey players and those in the years to come. Field hockey Head Coach Michael Warari explained, “[I] couldn’t have asked for a more committed, dedicated, consistently driven, passionate and caring human being to represent Vassar Field Hockey and show true character on and off the field. She surpassed anything and everything we could have asked of her, and she helped this program be the best it could be, and her legacy is one she and the team is proud of.”

Warari gushed, explaining how Feeley exemplified all the characteristics he looks for in a successful player and teammate, “We recruit hardworking, team focused-players, who are determined, passionate and resilient. We want players who can overcome challenges under immense and challenging circumstances, who love the game and show great character on and off the field. [Feeley] and the rest of the team all embody these characteristics.” Her former teammates sang similar praise for Feeley, as junior defender Ally Aquilina-Piscitello commended her leadership: “Monica embodied what it means to be a VCFH player and teammate
both on the field and off. She was a fantastic leader and role model, and someone that all of us looked up to … we are so happy for her and know firsthand how she deserves this award.

From talking to Feeley, it is evident that the sport of field hockey had as much of an impact on her as she left on it. During the selection process for the NCAA Woman of the Year, athletes are asked to write a letter “thanking” their respective sport. “I detailed how field hockey has had one of the deepest impacts on me out of any experience in my life. It taught me adaptability, resilience, patience, hard work, dedication, time management, etc., more so than any other experience could have,” explained Feeley. She continued: “In order to succeed in this sport you had to figure all of these things out on the go. Field hockey has shown me how to handle both success and failure, has shown me that I am strong enough to overcome any obstacle placed in my path, and has also given me a family for life. I am eternally thankful that I played this sport and that I was able to play my last four years at Vassar.”

While Feeley was not ultimately selected as the NCAA Woman of the Year, she came away with more than hardware, as she very much enjoyed the award weekend, which this year took place in Indianapolis. “First, getting to meet the other finalists was definitely the best part. They were all such amazing, unique and powerful women and I left the weekend feeling so incredibly inspired,” she recalled. During the weekend, Feeley also participated in a community service activity with local girls. She finished her student-athlete career in true Monica Feeley fashion: winning awards and serving those around her.

Monica Feeley ’19 had an outstanding career as a defender for Vassar’s field hockey team. Her recent selection as a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year honored her efforts, both on and off the field. Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

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