SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Lakeland's legendary field hockey program has produced 13 state championships—10 since 2009—all under coach Sharon Sarsen.

Perhaps more impressive, though, is what the Lakeland alums have accomplished in the classroom.

Three Lakeland graduates who play field hockey at the next level—Valerie Perkins (Quinnipiac), Julianna Cappello (Quinnipiac), and Caroline Cahill (James Madison)—were named 2019 Division 1 Scholars of Distinction by Zag Field Hockey/National Field Hockey Coaches Association.

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The distinction is given to student-athletes who have achieved a cumulative grade-point average of 3.9 or higher through the first semester of the 2019-20 academic year.

For Perkins, a senior, it's the fourth straight year she has earned the prestigious honor.

“To earn this honor for the fourth straight year is incredible,” Perkins said. “I always try to do the best I can in my classes, so I feel honored that I was able to achieve this award again.”

Perkins said it took some time to get used to balancing athletics and academics in college.

“It was sometimes difficult to miss class due to the team’s travel schedule,” Perkins said. “However, my older teammates and advisors provided me with great tips, and resources that made me learn to prioritize assignments and manage my time better.”

Cappello, a freshman, said excelling both on and off the field is rewarding.

“I’m very proud of myself for earning this honor,” Cappello said. “It is challenging trying to balance both academics and athletics, especially as a freshman when everything is a new experience.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt for Cappello to see a familiar face at Quinnipiac.

“Valerie [Perkins] and I have had a strong relationship since I was a freshman in high school,” Cappello said. “Having her at Quinnipiac has definitely helped me both on and off the field. It’s very comforting to have a familiar face when everything is new and changing. She really helped to impact my first year at Quinnipiac in a beneficial way, and I am very lucky to have been able to play with her one more time.”

Cahill, a red-shirt freshman at James Madison University, said the award is “proof that hard work does pay off.”

“I have always been focused in school and, being a Division 1 athlete, it really makes you set priorities and have focus on field hockey and academics,” Cahill said. “Being a student-athlete has really taught me the importance of time management and self-discipline. It makes me proud to represent James Madison University's field hockey team, as well as being an alum of Lakeland field hockey.”

Cahill rightfully took pride in sharing the honors with her former Lakeland teammates, Perkins and Cappello.

“It was really cool to see that two other Lakeland field hockey players also received Scholars of Distinction,” Cahill said. “What that says about Lakeland field hockey is that we were always taught to value what is in front of us and the power of working hard. With that, we were taught there is very little room, if any, for excuses. As athletes, especially during the season, yes, we are crazy busy, but that is still not an excuse to not study hard in school or to not do the best you can in classes. Sars (Coach Sharen Sarsen) taught us to be disciplined and work hard in all parts of life.”

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