Abby Thornton’s field hockey prowess has quickly made the transition from high school to college. She competes in the coveted Big East Conference as part of Providence College’s team.
It’s her accolades off the field, however, that have set her apart in her first two years on campus.
Last month, the 2014 Wyoming Area graduate was one of eight Providence players named to the 2015 ZAG Field Hockey/NFHCA Division 1 National Academic Squad. Players must achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or higher through the first semester of the 2015-16 academic year to qualify. The Friars were the recipient of the National Academic Team Award, which recognizes institutions that achieved a minimum team GPA of 3.0 during that time.
The accolade was Thornton’s second in as many years. Studying chemistry, Thornton’s responsibilities off the field are heavy. She balances those with being a collegiate athlete the best way she knows how. She misses practices once in a while due to a four-hour chemistry lab each week, she said.
“We can get tutors whenever we want,” Thornton said. “I had to recognize that a lot of times I would have to give up free time to catch up on homework and not procrastinate.”
Providence finished its fall season 4-14 and failed to made the Big East Conference playoffs.
“Coming into this year, I knew what to expect,” Thornton said. “Our team was really young and coping with all the losses is something we had to get through. Going through all that adversity is something that will help us.”
The Friars are coached by Mountain Top native Diane Madl. Madl was a standout athlete at Crestwood prior to leading the University of Connecticut to a National Field Hockey Championships in 1985. Madl, in her 14th season as the Providence field hockey coach, said academics are top priority.
“We had a challenging year on the field,” she said. “Our program is about the whole person and most importantly academics always comes first. We stress the effort they put in the classroom and Abby is leading the pack when it comes to that. She’s quite a bright young lady and very committed.”
This past season, Thornton, a defensive player, started all 18 games. She recorded eight points on three goals and two assists. She notched her first collegiate goal against UMass Lowell in the second game of the season. Against Brown in September, Thornton tallied a single-came career high for points with one goal and one assist. That assist was the first of her career.
“Her development in the last year and a half is tremendous,” Madl said. “She’s a competitor and very hard on herself. She’s always improving to be better. We had her in a crucial role this year and she handled it very well.”
In her first season with the Friars, Thornton played in 14 games and started 11. She was named to the National Academic Squad and the Big East All-Academic Team following the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Friars made it to the Big East semifinals in 2014, but lost seven of 11 starters to graduation, leading to the 4-14 season this past fall.
In her time at Wyoming Area, Thornton earned four varsity field hockey letters, along with two letters in basketball. In 2013, as a senior, she was named Wyoming Area’s Defensive Player of the Year and a Pennsylvania Field Hockey Coaches Association Second-Team All-State player. She was a two-time Wyoming Valley Conference First-Team All-Star.
Thornton will be a captain heading into her junior field hockey season — a post the former Warrior doesn’t take lightly. Madl said Thornton leads by example, both on and off the field. It’s one of the reasons why she was chosen. Thornton said it’s an honor that her teammates look to her in such regard.
“I’m definitely going to continue what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s also a reality check. I always have to be aware of my choices because they reflect me as a captain.”
Thornton is the daughter of Leza and Brian Thornton, West Pittston. She has a brother, Kevin. When she graduates, Thornton isn’t sure where her degree will take her, but she said she is considering going for her master’s in business.
Providence will begin the 2016 season in August.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick