Summer Issue: Balancing Act: Nationally ranked basketball, nursing
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Summer Issue: Balancing Act: Nationally ranked basketball, nursing

The Coyote women’s basketball team ranked 11th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 17th in the Associated Press poll to end the season, but these student-athletes still find time to be students.

Juniors Monica Arens and Claudia Kunzer are nursing majors. Both players joined the nursing program in February and play vital roles on the Coyote women’s basketball team.

Arens and Kunzer have taken all but one class together since freshman year, Kunzer said. Kunzer said Arens does a good job keeping her accountable.

“Monica is usually telling me, ‘Claudia we need to go study.’ I’ll say, ‘Oh really are you sure, I gotta watch one more episode of my show,’ and she will say ‘No, we gotta go study,’” Kunzer said. “(Then I’ll say) ‘all right, let’s go study.’”

Kunzer also said both players were aware of the time required to be a nursing major and athlete.

“We know what we’re getting into when we decided we wanted to do the nursing program,” Kunzer said. “I think everyone around us, coach Plitzuweit, our nursing advisors, teammates and roommates, they’re all helping us. We have that mindset where we can do this. We know what’s going on.”

The Coyote women played 14 games away from Vermillion this season, five of which happened over winter break. Trips to Boston, Green Bay and Salt Lake City in the non-conference play take students out of school for multiple days depending on when the games are played. 

Kunzer and Arens agreed the professors at USD are understanding of the team’s travel and work with their schedules.

“Honestly one of the best things about USD is the professors,” Kunzer said. “They’re here to help us. We miss a class, ‘Oh we’ll come meet with you, you need a time, tell us what time you need and we will come meet with you,’ so I think that’s what’s really special about USD.”

Arens and Kunzer said head coach Dawn Plitzuweit recruits players who can work as hard off the court as they do on the court.

“Coach Plitzuweit does a really good job of if we’ve been on the road for three days,” Arens said, “we’ll (the coaches) give you a day off to catch up on what you need to to get caught up with and then we’ll meet again the following day. She does a really good job of making sure we’re staying on top of things.”

As the season comes to a close, both players said they know stakes are getting higher, but their school work never becomes an afterthought.

“There’s things here and there that you might procrastinate on a little bit, but I think that says a lot about our team,” Arens said. “We’re all so competitive that in any area, whether it’s school, relationships, friendships or basketball, we want to be the best that we can be in every area of our life.”