SCAD students are a hardworking breed; That’s no secret. However, there is a sub-population of students who do not receive enough recognition for excelling in the art of balancing academia with extracurricular activities: student athletes.
I refer to them as athlete-artists, because while focusing on their major and chosen craft, they dedicate hours of their time to a sport where that artistic discipline is not exercised. For many of these students, playing a sport serves as an invaluable stress-reliever.
This column intends to spotlight student athlete-artists from each of SCAD’s sports teams, no matter how well-established or accomplished. This week’s piece highlights the hard work of two exceptional women’s lacrosse players who will join their teammates next week in Greenville, South Carolina for the 2017 Lacrosse National Invitational.
I first read about Drew Dowgiallo, a sophomore animation major from Lothian, Maryland, and Tori Alexander, a junior graphic design major from Alto, Michigan, in a sports briefing in my inbox back in March. The headline read, “SCAD lacrosse players collect weekly honors.” Both ladies received honors from the Association of Independent Institution’s weekly awards. Alexander won Defensive Player of the Week and Dowgiallo the Offensive Player of the Week.
Both Dowgiallo and Alexander have played lacrosse since grade-school; Dowgiallo started when she was in fifth grade and Alexander, per the request of her mom, started in seventh.
“I didn’t want to play at first, but she just kind of pushed into a bunch of different things, and I ended up really liking it,” Alexander said.
While lacrosse was always part of her routine, Dowgiallo’s artistic interests came to fruition in high school when she decided she wanted to be a fashion designer.
“Throughout high school, I was like, ‘I definitely want to be in fashion. This is what I want to do,'” Dowgiallo said. “And then by the end of junior year, I had just completely switched.”
Dowgiallo noticed her drawing style was more cartoon than the traditional, realistic approach her art teacher encouraged.
“He was always just like, ‘That’s not art. You can’t do that,'” Dowgiallo said. “I just was like, ‘No this is actually how I love to draw and this is what I like to do.’ And I started drawing little characters and making them move. Then I was like, ‘Wait this is what I want to do.'”
When she was looking for schools, the first thing Dowgiallo considered first was animation.
“That was my priority was looking for what’s best for me and what I want to do,” Dowgiallo said. “Playing here is just like an extra bonus because I get to go to the school where I get to do what I love and also play the sport I’ve been playing forever.”
Alexander’s path to SCAD was slightly similar. She sought both a lacrosse program and an artistic focus, though she was not quite sure what she wanted to study.
“It was kind of a combination,” Alexander said. “I wanted to find an art school that also had a lacrosse program. I didn’t necessarily want to play on a club team. I wanted more commitment to the sport. I didn’t actually know what I wanted to major in at first, but I have been interested in art since I was little.”
After considering fibers and fashion, Alexander settled on graphic design, because she enjoys the attention to detail combined with the element of drawing.
When it comes to managing a packed course load with a full-time sport, both ladies emphasized the necessity of time management.
“You kind of have to think, ‘I have to have this done by a certain time,'” Alexander said. “And the weekends are really important to spend your time wisely, but it’s doable.”
Dowgiallo said head coach, Adrienne Berkland, understands school comes first and will shorten practices during finals to allow extra time for academics.
“Normally, I try to get all the stuff that I need to do in the buildings done before we leave [for a game],” Alexander said. “If I have an art history class or something, I’ll save that for on the bus, because it’s easier to do.”
The women’s lacrosse team is made up of 20 students, all pursuing different majors while sharing the same love for the sport they play. Both Dowgiallo and Alexander still receive confused reactions when they mention they play lacrosse at a design school
“I find that a lot of people don’t know about the athletics and stuff like that, but they do advertise it,” Alexander said. “So I think people are starting to go to events more often.”
Unafraid of the competition, Alexander is excited about nationals and continuing her team’s positive streak.
“We’ve won nationals quite a few times in the past five to six years, I feel like,” Alexander said. “It’s nice being on a winning team. We won nationals the year before [last].”
Lacrosse is a lifestyle for these ladies, with physical benefits as well as an emotional and mental boost.
“The family that you get when you go on a team…everyone is just so welcoming,” Dowgiallo said. “We have a giant group chat that we talk in all the time. It’s just really nice having a family coming into school.”
“I would say confidence is key in both, just because you have to be confident with your work and what you put out there and same with lacrosse because if you play confidently, people will be intimidated,” Alexander said.
Dowgiallo and Alexander play their first game in the 2017 NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational May 4 at 4 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina. To see the team in action, check out our coverage of their last game here.