Coaches talk a lot about wanting their student athletes to "take it to the next level."
That's the way eighth-year head women's soccer coach Laura Schott talks about senior midfielder/forward Cori Bianchini, co-recipient of the 2015/2016 academic year Alice and Taylor Alexander Scholarship for Women's Athletics (graduated seniors Aubrey Nitschelm, softball, and Cheyne Corrado, volleyball, were last year's recipients).
Bianchini is a two-year All-Big Sky first-team and College Sports Madness Big Sky All-Conference selection, as well as a two-time Academic All-Big Sky pick. So, how do you improve on that?
"Cori was unlucky a lot of last year. She hit a few posts, but she was really aggressive, a very effective player," observed Schott. "I saw some change in her confidence and, while she's always had a good work rate, she took it to the next level."
And Bianchini thought so, too.
"Every season, I find myself improving and realizing something different about myself as a player. I found myself to be a much harder worker last season…and just wish that hard work would have showed up on paper. Still, I'm very proud of myself and my teammates for the hard work and effort we put into the season, even though it may not have ended how we planned," she said. (PSU finished second in the conference and was knocked out of the Big Sky tournament semifinal by Northern Arizona, 2-1).
During the season, "Cori was always seeking the ball, always pressuring the ball, playing at a high level for 90 minutes," Schott said.
Leadership is another area where Bianchini stepped up last year, Schott said. Bianchini thought so, too.
"She's emerging as a leader, becoming more vocal. She's always someone who led by example," said Schott. Bianchini thought "being an upperclassman gave me the ability to step up more as a leader, leading by example."
Bianchini is the ultimate team player.
What was the highlight of her season last year? "When my teammate Tamia Hasan (one of the Vikings' top offensive threats), who is part of my class, came back from an injury. I assisted her first two goals back. It always makes me happy when I can assist a teammate, especially at a time like that. It also gave me reassurance that we have good chemistry on the field and I'm excited to play with her in our last season."
And for next season, Bianchini said she's been working on her strength and aggressiveness. Over the summer, she did a lot more lifting and agility work.
"One practice in, I already have high hopes and expectations for myself and my teammates. I see a lot of skill coming in and feel pretty confident about our chemistry as a team…our ability to win a Big Sky championship and to be part of the NCAA tournament (this with a team that features 18 freshmen and sophomores, including red shirts)," she said.
Bianchini, who wants to be a nurse, will graduate this year with her degree in health sciences, and is carrying a 3.49 GPA. "Being a nursing student and taking hard classes as well as being a student-athlete, my current GPA is 3.49 which I'm not too proud of and am focusing on improving my senior year."
Talk about an overachiever, but that's what Schott has come to expect.
"For this year," Bianchini said "I would love to increase my scoring record as well this year. It has not been quite as high as I would wish," said the person who led the Big Sky in assists during the 2014 conference season.
For her part, Schott said she's looking for Bianchini "to take her game to the next level."