D’Ippolito Brings New Perspective to Hawks Athletics

D’Ippolito (left) poses with field hockey head coach Shanna Szablinski (right) and her 2018 State University of New York (SUNYAC) Championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Campbell)

On Nov. 3, SUNY Cortland marched out of their coach bus and onto the turf field, which overlooks the serene Mohonk Mountain. The peaceful autumn leaves contrasted the intense competition that was about to ensue.

With wires in every direction from her makeshift workstation and a field hockey team ready to compete in front of her, SUNY New Paltz Athletic Communications Director Monica D’Ippolito was locked in. Everything had to be in perfect order and any malfunctions would occur in front of conference officials, the athletic director and a large crowd that emanated a constant buzz.

Once the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championship began, that buzz only intensified. D’Ippolito was circling the field with her phone in hand and a camera around her neck. Like a hunter searching for its pray, D’Ippolito was on the prowl to make sure no athlete’s accomplishment went unnoticed. As the Hawks triumphed in the championship over the Red Dragons, she went to work immediately. Every second of the team’s celebration was captured, the entire awards ceremony was covered and post-game interviews were conducted shortly after.

The Fall 2018 season for New Paltz athletics was one of the best in history. Women’s volleyball and women’s tennis also enjoyed SUNYAC championships, and men’s soccer had one of the best seasons in program history. What can this historic fall season be attributed to? Great players and coaches are the obvious reasons, but athletes and others in the department say there is one unsung hero in the equation. D’Ippolito joined the New Paltz Athletic Department in 2017 with a distinct vision for the communications and media departments.

D’Ippolito is no stranger to the world of journalism. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism Magazine/Multimedia and a minor in English with her graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2014.

A major turning point in her career was when she began to work at the Howard County Times and Baltimore Sun Media Group. She cites Brent Kennedy, her sports editor there, as a major influence on her style of reporting and covering sports at New Paltz.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better person to learn from. He had a unique vision of what community journalism was and made it fun,” she said. “Most of the things we do, like pre and postgame video interviews, video highlights, fun video segments, athlete of the week and play of the week polls, I learned from him.”

Prior to D’Ippolito’s emergence on the scene as a catalyst in the Athletic Department, the media coverage was lacking. She takes on many responsibilities, but her favorite is reporting on the sidelines during games. Watching, taking notes and highlighting the players’ accomplishments is her passion.

“Before I got hired, my office was mainly worried about getting stats and scores correct,” she said. “They weren’t necessarily concerned with covering the games.”

For student-athletes, this was a lackluster environment to play in. D’Ippolito came to New Paltz and made their good experience become a great one.

Taking what she learned from Kennedy, D’Ippolito instantly brought change to the Athletic Department. Players relish in the opportunity to play under her media coverage. D’Ippolito’s office, which is enclosed by transparent walls, represents her approachability and availability. When she’s not working the games, she’s there creating new projects and articles. Her door is always open, which is fitting for the head of communications.

“Monica’s been a wonderful asset to our athletic department,” said fourth-year field hockey captain Samantha Ackerman. “She’s gone above and beyond to make our athlete experience extremely memorable. She’s just so talented at what she does. Media coverage in the past was nothing like it is now.”

Each game has a preview that describes the upcoming matchup and a recap that highlights the teams’ and athletes’ successes. Athletes are even more inspired to work hard because of D’Ippolito’s coverage, as the recognition for their accomplishments allows friends and families to share in the experience.

Pete Magnuson, whose son plays on the baseball team at New Paltz, raves about D’Ippolito’s coverage.

“I live a few hours away, so being able to see my son and his teammates being covered in such detail is awesome,” Magnuson said. “You can tell she cares about the athletes she covers. She makes sure their accomplishments are known.”

Since 2017, each recruiting class of athletes has gotten better and better for SUNY New Paltz. D’Ippolito stated that she hopes her work on social media and writing stories will bring in more players seeking to play at the collegiate level. She says that making New Paltz a student-athlete friendly environment where people want to play here could prove beneficial to the teams. It’s almost like a recruiting portfolio for coaches to use, where they can entice athletes with great and unique coverage.

D’Ippolito has even begun to take a professional approach to media. It is common now to see professional sports teams create “hype videos” for their teams when going into playoffs, or before the season starts.  With her interns, she made videos that assemble highlights of the teams playing. Ackerman stresses how these videos are great memories for the players to look back on, but also get the fans into it and excited for the season or for playoffs.

Fall 2018 was incredibly successful, and her colleagues and athletes view D’Ippolito as an underappreciated contributor to their success. Athletes recognize that she sacrifices her time to make the school a fun environment to play in. While this fall yielded great results from the Athletic Department, the members of the department feel that the winter and spring seasons show great promise. D’Ippolito’s vision for the teams are unfolding, and her associates hope the environment she’s been working towards continues in this direction.