Lenke Havas, a senior on the women's field hockey team, was the only international student-athlete on her team when she arrived in 2017. Now, she is the recipient of several individual accolades and is focused on improving the team. (Courtesy of Lenke Havas)

Lenke Havas carves out legacy as field hockey’s leader

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Lenke Havas, a senior defender and midfielder on the women’s field hockey team, has laid the foundation and created a positive dynamic for a team that has seen distinct improvement over the past four years.

Havas, hailing from Maastricht, Netherlands, had never been to the U.S. before coming to Lehigh in 2017 for her freshman preseason.

Since then, Havas has committed herself to the sport every day and never looked back. She integrated into the American field hockey culture, having been welcomed to the team with open arms as the only international student-athlete on the team at the time. 

Fast forward to 2020: Havas is a senior captain, has been named the 2018 and 2019 Lehigh field hockey athlete of the year, won 2018 and 2019 First-Team All-League recognitions, and is one of three players from the Netherlands on the roster.

Yet for Havas, there has been no ceiling. Success is defined not by her individual accolades, but instead through the team’s performance as a whole.

Historically referred to as the typical underdog, Havas and her teammates have improved and changed the program’s culture to create a strong foundation for those to come. After enduring 5-13 and 3-15 records in 2017 and 2018, respectively, Havas and her teammates helped Lehigh improve to 7-11 in 2019.

“We are not just expecting to win, but are working for a greater purpose to make a long lasting impact toward a goal that is bigger than ourselves,” Havas said.

Sophia Hartman, a sophomore defender, said she would not have been able to make it through her freshman year if it wasn’t for Havas’s vocal leadership.

Playing as a right back, Hartman relied on Havas to guide and develop her from the center of the defensive line.

“She understood that she had to take on that role in order to make not only me, but the whole back line successful,” Hartman said.

Havas’s passion for the sport is evident in everything she does, bringing a light hearted energy to the field while maintaining humility through her triumphs and failures.

Associate head coach Taylor Dyer has seen Havas at her best while having been at her physical worst with an injury last season.

“(Witnessing) her struggle through those persistent injuries throughout last season exposed so many of her great characteristics, and I developed an ever greater respect for her,” Dyer said.

Dyer, who has watched Havas evolve into the leader she is today, said she has demanded and expected more from her than anyone else since the beginning of Havas’s collegiate career. 

“She is completely irreplaceable in the pivotal role that she plays on this team,” Dyer said. “She is the primary person that we look to on set pieces, and she performs at the highest level with the highest level of confidence.”

Despite the uncertainty of a season, Dyer and Hartman said Havas has served as the team’s glue, holding them together amid the COVID-19 pandemic even being spread out across the world.

Havas’s impact extends beyond the field and into the personal relationships she has with those around her, elevating the team on a multitude of levels. Her words of encouragement have been at the forefront of her leadership, having mentored fellow teammates through respect rather than fear.

Havas’s field hockey IQ, coordination and confidence on and off the ball and purposeful decision-making skills have helped her form a legacy she will leave behind.

“She is the best player I’ve ever played with,” Hartman said. “Although I’ve only played with her for one season, and hopefully will for another, our team really values her and we are thankful for what she has done for us and the program.”

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