Until this past fall, Katrina Mikitish hadn’t played a competitive field hockey game for more than a year. When she finally hit the field, it was for a program in its infancy.
A 2014 graduate of Pittston Area, Mikitish was a part of the inaugural field hockey team at Pace University this past fall. Pace, a college in New York, New York, plays in NCAA Division II field hockey. The team, surprisingly, finished with six wins on the season.
Just one game into Mikitish’s final high school season, she tore her ACL and was forced to miss the rest of the season. Pace gave Mikitish the opportunity to continue her career and she made her mark in the inaugural season. But what about the knee? She said it’s doing fine.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Mikitish said. “I was nervous about the physicality, but I didn’t have any problems. Hopefully, I won’t need the brace next year.”
Mikitish finished the season by starting eight games and appearing in 17. She had one goal, but contributed to the team’s success on a regular basis.
Mikitish was one of head coach Valerie Hickman’s first recruits for the inaugural team. Hickman said she knew she was getting a good player in Mikitish, but she turned out to be great.
“She did everything we asked her to do,” Hickman said. “I could hear her communication on the field and it was a huge help for our team. She’s been a leader and helped other kids as much as she could.”
In their inaugural season, the Setters finished an impressive 6-12 – 3-9 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Pace picked up its first win in program history back in September when the team beat Mercy College.
The biggest win of the season for the Setters came a week later. Against No. 5-ranked LIU Post, Pace won in double overtime for an upset. During the season, Pace was 4-3 at home and outscored opponents, 11-8.
“It was such an emotional game,” Mikitish said of the team’s very first win. “I’m not sure how we did it. We just bonded together and you could just feel all the emotion from the team and all the excitement. We pulled it out.”
Mikitish scored her first collegiate goal on Sept. 19. In a loss to Saint Anselm, Mikitish gave Pace an early lead just 1:33 into the game. She received a pass from Josephine Hoestra and finished in the left side of the cage. That was the only goal Mikitish would tally on the season, but it will always be a memorable one.
“It was one of those things where I was like, ‘Oh, wait, did I do that?’” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates. We work on finishing a lot. It’s something we have struggled with. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”
Although the team has several upperclassmen, they are all freshman field hockey players. The team features 20 true freshmen, including Mikitish.
“It was certainly different,” she said. “Even though it was a young program, we didn’t feel like we were all freshmen. We were all open to new ideas and adjustments. It was a great experience.”
For Hickman, the first season was something she can’t explain.
“It is beyond words,” she said. “It was amazing to see them transform from the first day to by the end of the season was amazing. The personal growth for the girls and maturity on and off the field was amazing.”
Playing close to home is something Mikitish enjoys. She said her parents try to get to as many games as possible, when they aren’t visiting her sister, of course.
Sister Liz is a junior on the Kutztown University field hockey team. In Liz’s final season with the Bears, the sisters have a chance to meet in the playoffs. That’s what Katrina is hoping.
“Ever since I started playing field hockey, I knew I wanted to play as long as I can,” she said. “Hopefully, we can play each other. Maybe there is a possibility in the playoffs next season.”
Mikitish is studying international business.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick