Student-Athlete: Balancing academics and athletics

by · April 2, 2018

It’s DIII Week this week, where colleges across the country are celebrating Division III athletics. The Mount has 21 Division III athletic teams, and today we’re talking with sophomore Biology major and Women’s Tennis player Michelle Carnovale to talk about her Mount experience both on and off the court.

Knight Life: What attracted you to becoming an athlete at the Mount?

Michelle: When I was on the college search, I was unsure if I was going to continue playing college tennis. I knew being a Biology major was going to be difficult and that I was going to need to focus on being a student before being an athlete. I couldn’t imagine my life without playing tennis though because it had been such a huge part of my life since I was five years old. Thus, Division III athletics seemed liked the perfect balance between academics and athletics.

I was attracted to becoming an athlete at the Mount after talking to athletes and coaches at the college. They emphasized the word “student” when it came to being a “student-athlete.” I was also attracted to being an athlete at the Mount after staying overnight with a team member in which I got the opportunity to shadow a student for a day, watch a practice, and bond with the team. The team felt like a family, and the campus felt like a tight-knit community. After this visit, I knew MSMC was something that I had to be a part of.

Knight Life: Tell us about a memory that stands out in your experience thus far of being a Knight.

Michelle: The moment that stands out to me in my college tennis career was the semi-final match against St. Joseph’s College Long Island. The Mount was predicted as fifth in the Skyline conference preseason poll, but we ended up earning the third seed in the Skyline Conference Championship. After eight matches were played, the score was tied four-four. Each team was lined up on their respective sides of the court, cheering for our fifth singles player as she entered the third and final set. Each point felt like it lasted an eternity, as we sat nervously watching on the edge of our seats. Finally, match point came for the Mount, and we secured our place in the Skyline Conference Championship match, outlasting the number two seed. At this moment, feelings of shock, excitement, and love spread through the atmosphere. There were cheers and tears because we had defied the odds, together as a family.

Knight Life: You talked about how emphasizing the “student” in “student-athlete” was important in your college decision. How has being a student-athlete affected you on an academic level now that you have a few semesters under your belt?

Michelle: Being a student-athlete has most definitely helped me in the classroom. It has helped me to plan out each of my days around practice and matches in order to make sure all my schoolwork and studying gets done. I know that I have to get things done in the time I set aside for it, rather than procrastinating, because I will have other obligations later on. Being an athlete has helped me to plan ahead and stay organized in my schoolwork. One of the most important aspects that being an athlete has offered me is a healthy stress outlet after a long day of classes and studying. It is a great way to take a break and stay active, while doing something you love.

Knight Life: How has the Athletics Department at the Mount supported you?

Michelle: My coach, Elora Benfer, has been an important mentor in my college journey. When I was first starting the college search, she came down to Long Island to watch me play with my private tennis coach, Jordie. Jordie had always told me I was going to play college tennis and was excited to be a part of this journey. He and Coach Elora talked, and they both seemed excited about my future. Once I was getting more serious about attending the Mount, Coach Elora was very helpful in answering all my questions that I had about the Mount and set up an overnight visit for me. She was a “go-to” person before and during my college experience and was there for me with many things off the tennis court. On the court, Coach Elora has pushed me and challenged me in practice to better myself. She keeps me focused during my matches, which can be a difficult task at times. She always knows when I need someone to talk to during my matches and has supported me on multiple occasions when I needed to be defended. She is a great coach to have in your corner.

Knight Life: How has being a student-athlete affected your overall Mount experience?

Michelle: Overall, I would say being a student-athlete at the Mount has enhanced my college experience. It has given me opportunities that I may not have been able to achieve elsewhere. At the Mount, it is achievable to balance academics, athletics, and a social life. Off the court, I am Dominican Scholar of Hope, secretary of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and an Admissions Ambassador. When I give tours to prospective students, I always encourage high school athletes to play a collegiate sport if possible. It is a fun and competitive experience that allows you to make friends quickly, stay active, stay organized, and overall enhance your college experience. I cannot imagine going through college without playing tennis. I owe this experience to my parents, who have supported me in everything that I do, and Jordie, who never gave up on me, told me not playing college tennis was not an option, and shaped me into the player I am today.

Want to learn more about athletics at the Mount? Visit to read more about our 21 Division III athletic teams and dozens of intramural activities.

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