PORTSMOUTH — Picking a school for the right reasons — in both academic and athletic fit — is crucial to the growth of any student-athlete who aspires to not only play, but succeed at the collegiate level.

If her first two academic years at Shawnee State are any indication, Molly Stockton certainly has found the right fit that fits her desires.

Having played at Shawnee State’s No. 4 singles slot and its No. 3 doubles position throughout much of the year, all while achieving a GPA above 3.7, Stockton’s more than doing her part as a student-athlete.

The upcoming junior from Cincinnati, however, says that being a part of the tennis program at Shawnee State has given her a sense of support and security that has helped her in both causes at SSU.

“Being part of the tennis team is way more than the matches you play and the practices that you go to,” Stockton said. “Joining the team as you come in to college automatically gives you a community that you can belong to and lean on. It’s almost like a built-in support group. Everyone cheers you on and pushes you to not only get better as a player, but also as a student. You have an opportunity to make new friends and be a part of a group where everyone wants the other to succeed.”

A three-time all-conference honoree in high school in tennis, Stockton excelled from the outset.

At Amelia High School, the standout contributed to a Southern Buckeye Academic Athletic Conference (SBAAC) championship in 2015 and was named a first-team all-SBAAC honoree, then repeated the latter feat in 2016 as the Lady Barons’ No. 1 singles hand during the season.

When Amelia merged with Glen Este to form West Clermont High School prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year, Stockton — despite the increased student population and the difficulties that can arise with consolidation — took an outstanding approach to the change by establishing herself as the No. 1 singles player on the consolidated unit.

Now a part of the Lady Wolves, Stockton — according to the Eastern Cincinnati Conference (ECC) website — went 7-4 at the spot and earned first-team all-ECC honors in her senior year to round out a strong career.

She also established herself as a National Honor Society member at Amelia and West Clermont as well, due to her work in the classroom.

“It was a great learning experience,” Stockton said of playing at West Clermont. “Even though we didn’t win, we focused on coming together as two separate schools to create one team. I had really hard competition, but looking back at it, I think it helped me a lot for the college level.”

After having already decided to attend Shawnee State due to the school’s strong occupational therapy program, Stockton decided that she was interested in continuing her tennis career at the collegiate level.

So she reached out to fellow Cincinnati-area native Steve Boone to gauge her interest in the program.

“The occupational therapy program is what brought me to Shawnee State, and was the main factor for me choosing to go to school here,” Stockton said. “I actually reached out to (Steve) Boone after deciding that I wanted to go to school at Shawnee State. I wanted to see what the team was like and if I would be interested in playing while in college. He invited me to watch one of their matches near my home, and he talked with me and my parents about the team and school, as well as any questions that I had. We stayed in contact through e-mail, and not long after that I was committed to the school and the (SSU women’s) tennis program.”

Since becoming a member of the women’s tennis program at Shawnee State, Stockton has become a consistent member of the Bears’ singles and doubles rotations — all while obtaining high academic marks in the classroom.

The junior has obtained over 80 hours of academic credit and a 3.76 GPA in her field of study along with building up a women’s tennis program that had a dozen members on its roster last fall.

Over the last two years of her career as a student-athlete, Stockton’s simply hoping to build on the memories that she’s made as a student-athlete — all while working toward her future career as an occupational therapist.

“My experience has been pretty good,” Stockton said. “I have maintained high grades and have had the opportunity for my professors to get to know me since Shawnee State is a school with a smaller enrollment, which has been very helpful. I’ve also had a really great time being on the team. We have some hard competition, but it allows everyone to get better. Tennis has given me time management skills and a way to branch out. It has also given me some of my best friends, so I couldn’t ask for more.”

For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club.

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