Future Leaders: Graduating Coast Guard Academy basketball star readies for military career

Written by Jason Southard, U.S. Coast Guard Academy Sports Information Director

On May 18, 2016, the Class of 2016 will graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and become the newest group of officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the next four weeks, Coast Guard Compass will take an inside look at four of the upcoming graduates and the future of these new leaders.

Victoria Sutherland, a first class cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, is a stand-out player on the Bears women’s basketball team. Photo by Ed Pepin.

Victoria Sutherland, a first class cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, is a stand-out player on the Bears women’s basketball team. Photo by Ed Pepin.

Victoria Sutherland, a first class cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, is a stand-out player on the Bears’ women’s basketball team. As a three-time all-conference selectee and 1,000-point scorer, she knows what it’s like to lead on the court.

When she graduates in May, Sutherland will also be leading in the fleet. She will serve as deck watch officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber, a fast response cutter homeported in Miami. There she will be reunited with Ens. Leigha Steinbeck, a former teammate from the Class of 2015.

Sutherland, a Marine and Environmental Sciences major, served as regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets during the summer of 2015, a position that was well deserved.

“I had a phenomenal summer,” said Sutherland. “The experiences I went through with my classmates were extremely unique and rewarding. By far, this was my favorite summer as a cadet.”

“Serving as regimental commander allowed me the opportunity to meet many wonderful mentors and leaders in this service,” added Sutherland. “Being a member of the Corps is something I am very proud of and cherish. Representing the Corps last summer was a dream come true.”

During the year she also travelled to Alaska to take part in Model Arctic Council, which has a structure similar to Model United Nations. The event featured 65 students from 13 nations. The teachers in her department solicited for students to participate in the first international Model Arctic Council, held in Fairbanks, Alaska, during spring break.

When she graduates in May, Victoria Sutherland will serve as deck watch officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber, a fast response cutter homeported in Miami. Photo by Ed Pepin

When she graduates in May, Victoria Sutherland will serve as deck watch officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber, a fast response cutter homeported in Miami. Photo by Ed Pepin

“I was the U.S. Minister in the simulation, as well as an observer during the breakout sessions,” said Sutherland. “I met so many students, graduate and undergraduate, from nations around the world. I had interest in participating due to the nature of our service. We are a seagoing service and more waterways are becoming navigable with the retreating ice cap. It was humbling to learn about what other students are hard at work with within the Arctic region.”

The Academy has one of the highest percentages of NCAA sports participation of any school in the country. The lessons of values and character learned on the courts and playing fields at the Academy follow student-athletes as they serve their country.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Torie (Sutherland) grow and develop her leadership style over these four years,” said Academy women’s basketball coach Alex Ivansheck. “She is a true leader in the classroom, in the barracks and on the basketball court.”

This season on the court, Sutherland earned second team honors for the third straight year as she led the Bears and was fourth in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. She was second in scoring with 10.8 points per game and finished her career as the third all-time highest rebounder in the Coast Guard with 781 rebounds. Her 236 rebounds this season were the sixth most in a single-season.

Sutherland and classmate Meghan Fornaro leave with 64 wins in their four years, the most by any class, breaking the record of 63 wins by the Class of 2008. The Bears were 16-11 this season reaching the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference tournament semifinals for a second straight season.

Sutherland has had some memorable moments playing basketball during her four years at the Academy, specifically the Bears win against a bitter rival when she scored a game-high 23 points.

“My top Coast Guard basketball moment would have to be when we beat Babson, on their home court my sophomore year, snapping their 85-game winning streak,” said Sutherland. “ I will never forget the thrill and joy that brought to our program.”

As a Texas native, Sutherland had the opportunity to go to a number of large Division I schools near her home, but opted to go to a smaller Division III service academy.

“After visiting the Academy during the Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) program, I fell in love with the Coast Guard,” said Sutherland. “I was drawn to the humanitarian service and family atmosphere the Academy offered. I found out that I got my appointment to the Academy shortly after AIM and knew that I was done with my college application process. I visited the Coast Guard in February of my senior year to watch a women’s basketball game and once again was blown away at how friendly, down to earth, and professional the members of the service were.”

Victoria Sutherland and classmate Meghan Fornaro leave the Academy with 64 wins in their four years, the most by any class, breaking the record of 63 wins by the Class of 2008. Photo by Ed Pepin.

Victoria Sutherland and classmate Meghan Fornaro leave the Academy with 64 wins in their four years, the most by any class, breaking the record of 63 wins by the Class of 2008. Photo by Ed Pepin.

Sutherland says what ultimately drew her to the Coast Guard Academy wasn’t her love of basketball, but her desire to be more than just another number.

“I was looking for something smaller and more family oriented that would prevent me from being just another face in the crowd,” she says. “I wanted something more out of my college experience, which is why I was very receptive to playing basketball at the Division III level.

“Going to school at the Coast Guard Academy has exposed me to some of the most competitive, driven and hardworking people I have ever met. I would not trade my experience for anything.”

But, despite her outstanding sports record, it is her service to the Nation as a U.S. Coast Guard member that Sutherland says she is the most proud of.

“Being a part of the Corps of Cadets is one of the things I am most proud of,” she says. “Making sacrifices to do this may not always be the most fun, but being a part of something larger than myself gives me a sense of fulfillment.”

Sutherland is an outstanding example of the many cadet athletes who not only balance their military responsibilities with academics, but also excel in their sport and look forward to the future as a Coast Guard officer.

“What I look forward to most in the fleet is working with Coasties in the field,” said Sutherland. “I have enjoyed my time at the Academy, but am so excited to carry out the Coast Guard’s mission daily.”

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