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Even after playing one varsity sport in the spring, sophomore Kyleigh Keating wanted more.
After playing lacrosse last year, Keating committed herself over the summer to joining Harvard field hockey. Though Keating played both sports in high school, doing the same at the Division I level is more difficult and time-consuming endeavor.
“It takes an exceptional person and an exceptional athlete to be two-sport athlete at the Division I level … and be a student at Harvard,” said Harvard field hockey coach Sue Caples.
But Caples said she was confident that Keating would be up for the challenge, in large part due to Caples’ awareness of Keating’s level of play in high school.
Three years ago, the field hockey coach eyed Keating and recruited her with the hopes that she would join the Crimson. To Caples disappointment, Keating decided instead to accept an offer from Harvard’s lacrosse team.
After the end of her first lacrosse season, Keating expressed interest in joining the field hockey team and eventually decided to do just that.
“We were thrilled that she decided to join the team,” Caples said. “She’s a tremendous athlete … and has a wonderful personality.”
Although Keating hadn’t picked up a field hockey stick in close to two years, she impressed her coaches before the season even started.
“I was convinced that she had been playing field hockey for the past two years,” Caples said. “She looked like she hadn’t missed a beat.”
From there, she has continued to improve according to her coach.
“She is getting better every day,” Caples said. “It’s just a matter of getting the touches again to get up to speed. Her skills have improved to match her speed and athleticism.”
Soon after the season got underway, Keating had a coming out party against Quinnipiac. While the Crimson lost in a close match, the sophomore sparkled, scoring her first collegiate goal and then following it up with a second score later in the game.
“We needed to be really intense that game and I thrive in situations like that,” Keating said.
Thanks in large part to that breakout performance, Keating is currently second on the team in shot percentage and tied for third in goals.
“She seems to be in the right place and at the right time,” Caples said. “Was I surprised [by her performance]? absolutely not.”
Keating’s growth was suddenly put on hold last weekend when she tweaked her ankle and was forced to sit out Sunday’s game against Bryant University. Although the team was able to pull out a 2-1 victory, Caples said that Keating’s presence on the field was missed.
“It’s unfortunate I got hurt this weekend,” Keating said. “Hopefully I’ll be back soon at the same pace I was going at.”
But she also said that the slight injury shouldn’t slow her progress too much and that she would be playing again by the next match.
As Keating continues to figure out how to balance playing two varsity sports, she will have multiple sophomore teammates to turn to. Mariah Pewarski and Morgan Powell are also members of both the field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams.
“[Pewarski and Powell] definitely made me realize that it was a possibility,” Keating said.
For their parts, Pewarski and Powell have praised the value of playing two sports.
“[Powell and I] … were talking about how cool it would be to be in-season year-round,” Pewarski said. “Kyleigh loves field hockey. I think she just missed it and saw that we were able to handle [playing both].”
Keating believes that her time on the lacrosse team proved useful as she acclimated herself with the field hockey squad.
“Already having played a sport at the college level really helped with the intensity,” Keating said. “Obviously my stick skills were a little rusty at first and still aren’t as good as the girls who played year long. It’s one of those riding-a-bike skills.”
Although Keating admits that she will be at a slight disadvantage compared to those who focus on a single sport all year, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I consider it an advantage because I love both sports and I get to do both of them,” Keating said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
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