By Alexandra Assimon
It is fair to say that Shelby Vakiener, a fifth-year civil engineering major at Division III Rochester Institute of Technology, has had a well-rounded student-athlete experience. The senior has played at least one season of soccer, basketball and lacrosse.
Vakiener played both basketball and lacrosse during freshman year on campus, earning lacrosse Rookie of the Year honors in the Empire 8 conference. But she realized that she was missing something after her first year. She decided to leave the warmth of the basketball arena to brave the chilly upstate autumn in order to compete on the soccer team.
Having a passion for more than one sport made it easy for Vakiener to choose a Division III institution that allowed her to focus on a challenging major as well.
“Division III has given me the opportunity to play two sports that I really enjoy and I have had success at both,” explained Vakiener. “It has also allowed me to excel in a hard major that will lead to a great job after college.”
With her senior season on the soccer field winding down, Vakiener has started all but one of her soccer matches, netted the game-winning goal in a double-overtime win earlier this year in her effort to help Rochester Institute of Technology return to the postseason after making its first ever NCAA tournament appearance last fall.
That appearance for her was a climatic moment in her career, earning an at-large bid was the thrill of a lifetime. Although her team lost on penalty kicks, Vakiener still loved to see how she and her teammates progressed to that point and can only hope for a return to the tournament this season.
Her accomplishments on the lacrosse field are not too bad, either. Besides her rookie of the year honors, Vakiener was also the 2011 Empire 8 Player of the Year before Rochester transitioned to the Liberty League, where she became a two-time (2012 and 2013) Player of the Year. A three-time All-American, Vakiener is already the school’s all-time leader in points, goals and draw controls.
Having a hectic schedule has caused Vakiener to become more independent when it comes to schoolwork. Playing two sports drastically limits her free time. She has learned how to balance sports with academics and being a normal college kid. She has spent recent semesters with a fellowship at Wegman’s Food Market and Clark Patterson Lee – Design Professionals.
When she has a rare weekend off, you might be able to find her at the Vakiener’s cottage on Kueka Lake enjoying a little relaxation. But she would not change her crazy schedule for anything because, unlike most student-athletes, she has had the unique opportunity to live out her passion for not one, not two, but three sports all well preparing for success off of the field.