At the beginning of the fall semester, each member of the IU women’s soccer team wrote a personal goal on a note card for their upcoming academic term.
Each player was asked to keep it in their wallets, planners, mirrors — anywhere where they would see it often.
The purpose was for the team to set small goals that would keep them on track academically. The outcome of the experiment was a success.
With a cumulative 3.6 grade-point average, the team was able to take home the Herbert Cup with the highest collective GPA among Hoosier athletics for the fifth time in seven semesters. The team also won it in fall 2016, spring 2016, fall 2015 and fall 2014.
It would’ve been its fifth title in a row, but cross country won in the spring of 2017 by a margin of 0.02.
“I think that was a goal that we set out in preseason,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “With that small of a margin, losing it, that was something that was going to fuel our kids to get it back.”
One of the main reasons for women's soccer's success was junior defender Caroline Dreher, who was elected as the team’s academic captain for the year. Some of her duties included keeping the team on track in the classroom and helping freshmen find resources on campus or within the athletic department.
“The academic captains that preceded me were not only extremely intelligent, but were able to inspire and connect with teammates,” Dreher said.
The Hoosiers were able to keep up on their studies despite multiple road trips, which included one in the beginning of the season that lasted seven games. They were able to create an environment that encouraged studying on the bus or at the hotel. When they were in the hotel, they’d organize optional study hall hours in a meeting room.
“Our team does a phenomenal job keeping up with school on road trips,” Dreher said.
All the extra work seemed to pay off as IU women's soccer also had 16 Academic All-Big Ten honorees — the most since 2013.
Dreher, senior midfielder Kayla Smith, sophomore forward Sydney Kilgore and junior forward Maya Piper were also named to College Sports Information Directs of America All-District Second Team for their performance in the classroom and on the field, the most for one team in IU history.
“We talk about having this pyramid of success with three main things: These kids are a student first, they’re an athlete second and then they have to have some sort of social life,” Berbary said. “So, trying to figure out how to balance all three of those things and be successful in the classroom and the field is one of our pillars of success in our program. We need to continue that. I think we’re off to a great start in the spring.”