Photo by Rich Carpenter

Photo by Rich Carpenter

Manchester Community College graduate Stacey Lambert was recently recognized by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) for Exemplary Academic Achievement.

Lambert, who played on the Lady Cougars’ last team before the athletics program at MCC was eliminated earlier this year, graduated in May with an associate’s degree in general studies and a 3.63 GPA.

Lambert, who will continue her education at the University of Connecticut this fall, was named to the All-Region 21 (New England) Division III women’s soccer first team as a sophomore in 2012 and was a key member of MCC’s first and only Region 21 women’s soccer championship team in the fall of 2011.

“Stacey was an integral piece of our program for the two years she was at MCC,” head coach Jeremy Wilson said. “She was a captain and leader both on the field and off. Obviously in the classroom she did fantastic as well.”

The MCC women’s soccer program has now produced three players recognized for academic excellence – Julia Connor in 2009, Lindsay Estok in 2010 and now Lambert.

“Whenever a student-athlete excels in the classroom and on the field, it’s a great story,” former MCC director of athletics Cynthia Washburne said. “When we talk about student, athletes, we are looking at being excellent as a student and as an athlete, and that is Stacey.”

Washburne left MCC in July to become associate director of athletics at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Lambert started all 32 MCC games over two seasons – 18 at center back as a freshman and 14 at center midfield as a sophomore – scoring a pair of goals with four assists. Prior to MCC, Lambert was a two-year starter for coach Mark Morello at Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon, from which she graduated in 2011.

“She was a kid that coming out of high school really enjoyed playing the game and didn’t want to give it up,” Wilson said. “MCC afforded her the vehicle to continue playing and she really took advantage of the opportunity.”

Lambert is part of the last class of student athletes to benefit from the athletic programs at MCC. The school, which had sponsored intercollegiate athletics since 1970, eliminated its athletic department in February due to state budget cutbacks.

Lambert praised MCC’s program.

“MCC gave me time to decide what I wanted to do,” said Lambert. “It provided a good opportunity for me to get my classes in line for what I wanted to do at UCONN.”

MCC opened its final campaign with ten consecutive losses before rebounding with three wins in its last four games. Lambert, who was Wilson’s lone sophomore last fall, scored a goal and assisted on three others in the program’s final game, a 6-0 win over Bristol Community College at home on Oct. 16.

“We were allowed more opportunities in the last couple of games of the season because we improved a lot, which provided a lot more opportunities for me since I usually play defense,” Lambert said when asked about her late season scoring burst. Lambert’s first career goal came six days earlier in a dramatic 2-1 win over Springfield Technical Community College.

“I feel like every game was special because every team that I have played on has been like a family to me,” Lambert said. “I enjoyed every minute of playing soccer at MCC and becoming friends with all my teammates.”

The future is bright for Lambert, who has her soccer coaching license and is applying to UCONN’s athletic training program.

“I hope to have a career as an athletic trainer and work with athletes,” Lambert said. “I have had such a good experience with people helping me get where I wanted to be in sports, so I just want to do that for someone else.”