TURLOCK — By all accounts, this was a common occurance at Cal State Stanislaus women’s soccer practices this season.
As the players sat on the field, pulling on their boots, the chatter wouldn’t be about defense or passing, or even about the Warriors’ next opponent.
Typically, Karenee Demery and fellow senior Emily Relles would be talking about what was going on in their biology courses.
“They make fun of us all the time because me and Emily are always talking about school and, yes, we’re the nerds talking about biology,” Demery said. “Sometimes, you just have to bring it to practice.”
You get the feeling that Demery “brings it” no matter the task at hand. She’s a three-time all-American, and is certain to be so honored again when this year’s teams are released. She finished her college career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, leading the Warriors this season to a program-best No. 5 national ranking and an 18-1-2 final record, losing only on an overtime fluke goal to CSU San Bernardino in the second round of the West Regional.
And on Monday, the self-professed nerd was honored as the national Division II Academic All-America Player of the Year, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Demery carries a 3.7 GPA and hopes to continue on in college to pursue a career in medicine, perhaps as an emergency room physician, after testing the waters of professional soccer. This is her second year on the academic All-America team, having joined teammate Bernie Bettencourt on last year’s squad, but she’s the program’s first player of the year honoree.
“She’s a nerd and that’s for sure,” said coach Gabe Bolton. “There’s a group of players who are all bio majors, and when they’re putting on their boots I don’t understand at all what they talking about. These kids are always talking about school. I have to say ‘How about we play some soccer now?’ It’s terrific.”
As a team, the Warriors carry a 3.3 GPA, which will qualify them for another team academic All-America award.
“I couldn’t be more proud of anything, including our championships,” Bolton said. “These kids, led by Karenee, are the epitome of student-athletes.
“It’s great to see, but sometimes I wish I knew what they were talking about. All of our seniors are great students, and they’re in difficult majors. I mean, my degree is in political science, but that’s not science. You overhear a discussion and it’s nerd central, and I say that with love.”
The honor continues a remarkable career off the field for Demery, who was one of four 2010 graduates of Harvest Christian School, a Merced institution with only 52 students K-12.
“Coming here was an adjustment but my parents always stressed grades,” Demery said. “If I had to put in the extra work, then so be it, but I’ve always been taught to be a hard-worker.
“You have to prioritize. We’re student-athletes and student is first. Being a student is not an option, and if I’m not a student first then it’s not a pretty sight when I go home.”
With mandatory study sessions for players and a high team GPA to go with the program’s on-field success and one of the best soccer facilities in Division II, Bolton certainly can approach recruits – and their parents – with a lot of positive ammunition.
“I tell them that we’re only undefeated in one statistic, and that’s graduating players,” Bolton said. “I had a player who just graduated, who had finished her eligibility in 2006. She left and went back to Southern California needing one more class to graduate. I kept hounding her.
“We put up a board in the locker room with the nameplates of all the graduates in the program, but you have to graduate to get on it. She came in the room, saw her name wasn’t on there, and the next semester she was back in school to finish and get her name on the board.”
Demery has her classes in place to earn her BS this spring. And if she can find a place to play soccer professionally, med school might have to wait.
“I would think she’d have the opportunity to keep playing and she wants to give it a go,” Bolton said. “Having been at two camps with the under-23 national team certainly adds to her resume.
“The women’s league in America is so small right now, her opportunities might have to be in Europe, but we’re putting the feelers out to different pro teams. It’s not too bad that her fallback will be med school.”