BOCA RATON, Fla. -
Collegiate athletes dream of hoisting that championship trophy high overhead and celebrating victory with their teammates. Many work toward the ultimate goal of moving on to the next level. However, for the majority that moment when they dress in cap and gown rather than uniform, and walk across the stage signifying the completion of their degree is the moment of greatest celebration and achievement.
Florida Atlantic University athletics was proud to see 49 student-athletes representing all 21 intercollegiate teams earn their diploma this spring. These individuals are the epitome of what it means to be an Owl as they succeeded academically, athletically and civically. The athletic department celebrated these accomplishments with a graduation reception at FAU Stadium on Wednesday, May 3.
“Congratulations to all of our student-athletes who earned degrees this past academic year,” said Pat Chun, vice president and director of athletics. “We also thank them for making an extraordinary impact on Florida Atlantic University. We’ve watched in awe these past few years as they have raised the bar for our athletics department academically, athletically and socially. We wish them continued successes as they begin the next chapter of their respective lives.”
These 49 student-athletes each had a unique journey and benefitted from their time at FAU in different ways. Men’s tennis player Andrei Morin-Kougoucheff and softball’s Amanda Wilson both agreed that their time at FAU were invaluable, preparing them for life after college while they made friends and memories they will never forget.
Morin-Kougoucheff led men’s tennis to its best season since 2009 with a 17-7 team record, earning him First Team All-Conference USA (C-USA). Individually, he was 12-6 in No. 1 singles play and was ranked in the top 100, becoming the first Owl in more than a decade to be nationally-ranked. In doubles action, Morin-Kougoucheff paired up with Remi Chancerel to go 11-7 on the year in the No. 1 spot. He has posted a winning record in singles every year including finishing on a 10-match win streak last season with an 11-4 overall singles record, which earned him All-C-USA Second Team honors. He also shined in the classroom, graduating with a 3.63 GPA in Finance and earning a spot on the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the FAU All-Academic Team.
Despite moving from France to attend college in the United States, Morin-Kougoucheff felt like he had a very easy transition. He always knew that he wanted to pursue his education and play tennis in America.
“The FAU coach at the time (Brandon Stokes) took a chance on me and gave me a full ride to FAU,” said Morin-Kougoucheff. “It was an easy choice honestly because my priority was Florida, California or New York. I am very happy with my decision. My teammates made the transition easier. I got along with them right away. You go out together, you practice together and you have fun together so there weren’t any big sacrifices, it was just a good time. I was only 17, and it (playing college tennis in America) was what I wanted to do for two or three years and it was finally happening. It was all positive.”
Morin-Kougoucheff quickly decided that getting a quality education was his main priority despite his love of tennis. He became a part of the FAU Financial Analyst Program (FAP) to pursue his goal of working in the financial sector.
“My first two years (at FAU) I had a lot of fun. I wasn’t worrying too much about school, but it got tougher, and I also realized what I wanted to do with my life, and that became more important. I focused more on academics for my last two years, and I learned a lot. It is doable to balance it (academics and athletics) you just have to have discipline and put your priorities straight. It has been a great experience, and I am happy that FAU has a program like FAP because it gave me real-life skills. I am interviewing now for jobs and internships, and they consider that program as real work experience.”
Morin-Kougoucheff is currently waiting to hear back about potential internships for the coming months and may take a page out of his sister Edmee’s book. Edmee is currently pursuing a MBA in Sport Management at FAU and works for IMG Academy. Morin-Kougoucheff is working toward earning the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) credential, the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world. To receive this certification, Morin-Kougoucheff must take a set of three exams combined with four years of experience in the field. He is registered to take the CFA Level 1 exam in December.
“I put the priority on my professional life because tennis is only temporary. I am not going to make a living off it. I know that, but I have been playing tennis my whole life so it is hard to close that door.”
Ultimately, Morin-Kougoucheff is proud of what he has accomplished on and off the court, particularly making a long-lasting mark on FAU’s tennis program. His brother, Ivan, will follow in his footsteps as he recently committed to FAU tennis and will begin school in August 2017.
“I’ve had a good career. I think I had a good college experience. Especially (with) the (tennis) program. We have beautiful courts on campus, positive dynamics and great recruits coming in next year. I also was able to recruit some of my friends from France back home. I am happy about that too because moving forward I know the program is going to keep rising. That’s a good feeling to know that I had an impact in the four years that I have been here.” For softball’s Wilson, FAU has become her home away from home. The Illinois native always knew she wanted to attend college and pursue softball outside of the Midwest. She is one of a handful of Midwesterners to represent the Owls in the program’s 23 years of existence.
“When I was going through the recruiting process, I was never that attracted to the schools near me,” said Wilson. “I came down for a visit and met Coach (Joan) Joyce and Coach Chan (Walker) and saw the field lined with palm trees, and I was sold. I couldn’t have made a better choice.”
The transition was not without some speed bumps both on and off the field, but Wilson’s coaches and teammates helped her move forward.
“Coming from Illinois to Florida there were a lot of adjustments. Even things that people say. For example, I call soda ‘pop’. It’s certain things like that people joke with me about. Obviously, the heat is another. Making the transition from high school to college softball was a big adjustment, but the coaches helped prepare me a lot for it.”
Wilson has been a consistent member of the FAU pitching staff since arriving from Providence Catholic High School in 2013. In her first season, she went 10-4 and was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, she had a 1.34 ERA, helped the Owls to the 2015 NCAA Regional and was the first pitcher to shut out eventual National Champion Florida through seven innings. She followed that up by going 16-4, making the All-Conference USA First Team, and helping the Owls sweep the C-USA regular season and tournament titles. Wilson also helped the FAU pitching staff finish third in the nation in team ERA. She has picked up 13 more wins this year, for a total of 47 career victories, good for seventh all-time in school history. Her 1.80 career ERA is ninth in program history and her 1.68 walk per game ratio is eighth with at least two weeks to play. Wilson boasts a 3.57 GPA in health administration and was named to the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and FAU All-Academic Team for the Fall 2016 semester.
Wilson has found her passion while at FAU: long-term care and assisted living. She will graduate with a bachelor’s in health administration. She has decided to pursue this career back in Illinois while working toward either a master’s degree in healthcare administration or a MBA with a concentration in the same subject.
“I just decided this year (to go back to school in Illinois). At first, I thought about staying here for grad school because all my friends are here and it is going to be hard to leave, but at the end of the day, four years was a long time (to be away from home). When I had to leave home, it was very uncomfortable, but now leaving here is going to be very uncomfortable. I almost have to do that in order to keep moving forward.”
One thing is for certain, Wilson would not change a thing if she had to do it all over again. “I think it (FAU) was a perfect fit. It has been a great four years. I have learned so much. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat...I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I have done really well here and it helped me discover what I really want to do after softball.”
“I came in as a shy 18-year-old who didn’t talk to anyone. College really helps you mature. I learned so much, and Coach Joyce and Coach Chan have taught me so much more than just softball. I really grew as a person and found the path I’m supposed to be on. I got very lucky…It (FAU softball) is a great program. I was very lucky. Our culture on our team is something that you can’t replace. Through the highs and the lows, we are always there for each other, and I think that is all you can really ask for.”
The gold necklace that dangles around her neck allows Wilson to take a piece of FAU with her wherever she may go.
“Kylee (Hanson) and I got necklaces for each other for graduation. They have the coordinates to the FAU pitching mound on them. Being a pitcher on the FAU softball team is always going to be a huge part of me, and I am going to miss it so much. It will always be like part of my home.”
2017 Spring Graduates