Junior Chloe Keating, who grew up playing midfield, has excelled after moving to forward this season. Through three games Keating has matched her career total in points, with 14 on five goals and four assists.
For junior Chloe Keating, field hockey has always been a way of life. But it wasn’t until her coaches tried something new that her true talent shone through on the turf.
From the very beginning, Keating grew up surrounded by her favorite sport. The Crimson standout’s hometown of Bryn Mawr, Penn. is a field hockey hotspot and, as one of six sisters—all of whom play competitively—Keating seemed destined to pick up a stick.
“Field hockey is really big in my area, even more so because I went to Catholic school,” Keating says. “When I was younger, my grade school didn’t even offer soccer.”
So it was lacrosse and field hockey for the budding star through high school, a time when Keating proved herself as a natural leader—earning three team MVP honors across the two sports.
While Keating showed talent in both sports, field hockey proved to have the stronger pull, and as she looked to continue her career it was a logical step to follow her oldest sister Kristen, class of 2006 to Cambridge.
“[Kristen] went through the same program, with the same coaches,” Keating explains. “She really enjoyed her experience here.”
Although the sisters did not overlap, Keating thought she learned enough from her sibling to know what to expect from her Harvard experience—four years as a solid midfielder, the position she had played her whole career. But, things have taken a surprising—and beneficial—turn in Keating’s junior season.
While teams often carry six or seven forwards in order to produce fresh rotations, Harvard began 2009 with only four, including three freshmen, forcing Crimson coach Sue Caples to shift personnel. With Keating’s flexible skill set, she was a reasonable gamble on the offensive end.
“I’ve never really considered myself a forward, because I’ve always had midfield tendencies…being more central and not being as offensively motivated,” Keating reflects. “But I’ve always liked using stick skills and shooting the ball, so I think it was a smart transition to put me up there.”
Although the idea came as a surprise to the junior, Keating kept an open mind and has reaped the benefits. After two moderately productive seasons at midfield, in which Keating notched 14 points over seven starts, the newly-minted forward has exploded in her third year, shredding opposing defenses like a veteran.
“[Keating] has brought a lot of energy and intensity to the forward line,” co-captain Kristin Bannon says. “She has an eye for the net and loves to score.”
Only three games into the season, Keating has satisfied her love of goal-scoring early and often. Armed with the quick hands necessary to control the ball at midfield, the junior star has emerged as an excellent presence in the circle, responsible for deftly deflecting Crimson shots out of reach of opposing goalies.
“[Keating] is a great tipper,” co-captain Elizabeth Goodman-Bacon praises. “She always has her stick in there, always gets a touch on any shot, aond can put it in the net…she’s developed into a real goal scorer with a lot of poise.”
The junior’s increased involvement has led to an offensive flurry. Keating has notched five goals and four assists—best on the squad in both categories—en route to matching her career total with 14 points. With the introduction of such a prolific scoring threat after struggling offensively in recent years, it is no surprise that Harvard is off to its first 3-0 start since 2005.
“It’s incredibly important having Chloe up [at forward],” Goodman-Bacon says. “Even amidst the [personnel rotation] and illnesses, it has allowed us to generate the offense we need.”
Keating showed particular excitement for the team’s offensive resurgence because it takes pressure off of what was once a much-beleaguered defense. In the standout’s first two seasons, Harvard averaged just 1.7 and 1.47 goals per game, versus 4.0 so far in 2009.
“[In the past] we’ve really depended on the consistency of our defense,” Keating explains. “Games we should have been winning 4-0 or 5-0 we were winning 1-0 or 2-0… We’ve finally begun to depend on forwards and midfielders to score and generate more consistent offense in order to win games. It’s fun being a part of that offense and that type of scoring mentality.”
And without question, Keating represents the lynchpin of this suddenly dynamic attack. Yet the junior, ever humble about her recent stardom, credits her teammates and the playbook for her newfound success.
“A lot of my goals have been completely generated by the good passing of players off the corners,” says Keating, who occupies the left tipper position on penalty corners. “Most teams typically guard the right side thinking that most people will innately go there, so we’ve focused a lot of our plays on going left.”
While many factors seem to contribute to the junior’s strong season, they all point to a common conclusion—Keating is poised to continue shining for the rest of her Harvard career.
“She’s a confident player,” Goodman-Bacon says. “She came in confident and it has only grown.”
But while things may be rapidly changing for Keating as she rises from role player to offensive superstar, the most important aspects of field hockey remain the same, including the joy of sharing her favorite sport with those closest to her. After spending her first 18 years surrounded by a field hockey-focused family, Keating has transitioned easily into the family of Crimson field hockey.
“It’s nice to kind of have a core group of people that you’re always involved with,” Keating says. “I’ve really enjoyed every aspect of the program from the beginning. My teammates are my best friends here so it’s been a really great experience overall.”
The junior standout also does not take for granted the role her sibling has played in paving the way for her time at Harvard, as evidenced by her jersey number—the same 24 worn by Kristen for four years.
And after devoting so many seasons to the same sport, among her sisters and her teammates, Keating is finally experiencing the benefits of both diligent work and an open mind. If her torrid start to life as a forward is any indication, the athlete who has always been part of a field hockey family now has the chance to create a legacy all her own.
—Staff writer Max N. Brondfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.