Bryn Athyn College will roll out their first-ever field hockey program this fall, competing in the NCAA Division III North Eastern Athletic Conference. The Lions are just one of five field hockey programs in the conference including three from New York (Keuka College, Morrisville State and Wells College) and one from Pennsylvania (Wilson College from Franklin County). Kaitlyn Fitzgerald will lead the Lions in their inaugural season. Fitzgerald is a 2009 graduate of Towson University where she was a four-year member of the Division I field hockey team as a defender. She began her coaching career at Wilkes College, while obtaining her masters degree, and has served as an assistant coach at Arcadia University for the past three years. While there, Fitzgerald helped lead the Knights to a MAC- Commonwealth regular season title and was instrumental in recruiting.
I caught up with Fitzgerald to find out more about establishing a new program, what she’s looking for in a student-athlete, her goals for the program, the new field, and more.
Your team will assemble in August for the first time. How is the recruiting process coming along? “It’s been a cool process starting from scratch and looking for the right type of player that I feel will make an immediate positive impact on the program. With us being a smaller school, and a first year field hockey team, I have been traveling a lot both in and out of PA to attend high school games and tournaments, and getting many athletes on campus to get our name out there and experience the culture at Bryn Athyn. Not many people have heard of us but once they go through the process and then come on campus, they are in awe of how beautiful and new it is and are extremely interested in our degree programs. The education and athletic programs are unmatched here and I truly mean that. We want to be an integral part of each students’ successes both on and off the field. It’s also been nice and exciting to have student-athletes from other teams — like women’s lacrosse — express interest in playing for the season. We encourage dual athlete participation to gain the full experience.”
Tell me about your staff: “My assistant coach is Molly Goldstein, one of my former players at Arcadia University. I had the pleasure of being her assistant coach, so she knows my style of coaching pretty well! Molly brings a ton of knowledge to the table, and was super successful as a player because of her work ethic and positive attitude. I was looking for someone that would make a difference in helping the development of the girls, while also being a good role model. I am also interested in finding a goalie coach to add to our staff; I feel like we’ll be the complete package once that happens.”
What are you looking for in players: “I’m looking for the type of player that wants to leave a mark and make an immediate impact on a first year program — a player with a strong work ethic and leadership qualities. I think it takes a special type of player that looks at a program starting from scratch and sees the direct benefits of wanting to go through that journey. So far I have been very lucky in finding some of those players to lead us to where I envision us going! The energy and positivity of the recruits who are committed so far makes me so excited to be their coach and to help them develop.”
Given the small size of the NEAC, what will the balance of your schedule look like: Along with our NEAC conference, I tried to incorporate as many local teams as I possibly could and I’m happy with the result. We are pretty much set in stone for the schedule which should be released in the spring. The teams we are competing against other than in conference include five from the Philadelphia area including Arcadia, Bryn Mawr, Delaware Valley, Immaculata and Swarthmore. We’ll so play Cedar Crest, Keyston, Notre Dame of Maryland, DeSales and Wilkes.”
What are your goals for the 2017 season? “My main goals are to field a focused and healthy team for season and to build on each successful moment we have as a team. With that, it will carry us through a positive and monumental first season.”
What are your long-term goals for the program? “My long-term goal is to hit the ground running as a competitive team that nobody takes lightly. We want to make a name not only for ourselves in the NEAC conference, but in the Division III field hockey world as well.”
Tell me about the new field: “It’s unbelievable! The work and details that have been put into it make it very unique. It is Ronald K. Nelson Field, named after General Nelson who was a long-time teacher and Athletic Director at ANCSS, and started the men’s lacrosse program over 50 years ago. It is important because much of his legacy included using sport as a platform to teach integrity, courage, dedication, commitment and honesty to students. They broke ground in September and finished toward the end of December. The field will not only benefit the athletic department, but also the college community as a whole including the physical education department, intramural, club sports, etc. The field is also home to Mystx Field Hockey Club, which we are very excited about building a relationship with their organization and players. Our turf is provided by FieldTurf. It is installed at hundreds of athletic places across North America, including Gillette Stadium (home of the NFL’s New England Patriots and MLS’s New England Revolution.) We are super lucky to have it, and I can’t wait for us to make it our home field!”
The addition of Bryn Athyn field hockey brings the total number of Phila-area colleges to 20 including 6 Division I programs, 1 Division II program and 13 Division III programs. Philafieldhockey.com will again post scores and links to full game reports for all Phila-area colleges come fall 2017.
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