As the days of summer heat up, July’s Alumni Spotlight shines on former Knights softball shortstop, Stephanie Sweeney. A graduate of the class of 1999 as an Elementary Education major, she was a key component to then-Head Coach Brian DeMasters’s squad throughout her four years.
Sweeney’s passion for softball began at an early age. As she neared the end of her toddler years, her grandfather handed her a ball and glove and taught her how to throw. Becoming both her number one fan and her top critic, Sweeney’s grandfather “didn’t sugarcoat it;” he told her what she’d done well and what needed improvement. She took his advice seriously, and by the time she hit high school, had gained the interest of a number of college coaches.
As DeMasters watched her closely during her high school years – her first two at St. Edmund Prep in Brooklyn and her final two at St. Francis Prep in Queens – he recognized the talent right away and offered Sweeney a full scholarship to play for the Knights. That was the start of a record-setting career at the college for Sweeney.
In 1996, she garnered freshman of the year awards, both from the team and the athletics department, and was named to the NYCAC (New York Collegiate Athletic Conference) Second Team. In the years that followed, Sweeney was named to the NYCAC’s First Team three times and was awarded the title of team MVP twice. During her career at Queens, Sweeney set 11 single-season records, 15 career records, and two NCAA records in her single-game performance against Mercy College (in which she had 9 RBIs). She also registered an astounding 30-game hitting streak. To cap off her career, she received the school’s prestigious Silver Knight award – the department’s highest honor.
Not only did Sweeney collect countless personal awards, but she helped Queens to a pair of second-place finishes in the NYCAC (1997 and 1998). In 1999, her final year at the school, Sweeney and the Knights earned a place in the NCAA Regional Tournament, eventually finishing third and registering a record-setting 37 wins.
How did this Bellerose, N.Y. native balance out her extraordinary performance as an NCAA student-athlete while being a college student? She took classes in the morning and then went right to practice. She said that balancing classes, homework, practice, and travel was a challenge, but she was committed to excel both academically and athletically.
Sweeney is in charge of her own team these days, equipping them not with balls and gloves, but with pencils and paper. An elementary education teacher at St. Gregory the Great School in Bellerose, she uses the lessons she learned both from her grandfather and from DeMasters to educate her students, emphasizing the importance of teamwork, commitment, and time management.
To this day, Sweeney still remains athletic and is raising 3 boys, teaching them to become athletes in their own right. Her message to today’s student-athletes? “Enjoy every minute of it and play like a team.”
By Queens College student, Alex Garrett