Almost 4,000 miles away from Bethlehem is a country home to three Lehigh field hockey players. Senior Lenke Havas, sophomore Sarah Bonthuis and freshman Lotte Smorenburg are all Dutch natives.
Because of the fall sports cancelation, only Havas was on campus last semester, but now all three are on campus in preparation for a spring season. On Jan. 17, all three athletes flew back to Lehigh together from the Netherlands and began their two-week quarantine.
Bonthuis and Smorenburg continued to play with their local club field hockey teams to stay in shape before the Netherlands went on a second lockdown. Over winter break, they began completing workouts assigned to them in their training packets by Lehigh’s team.
“Even though all of that was at home, my coaches did a really good job staying connected with everyone,” Bonthuis said. “We had a lot of team meetings…maybe once or twice a week.”
Although staying motivated was difficult at times, Bonthuis said that the thought of seeing everyone again kept her going while at home.
She said the team has a well-built foundation, and the athletes know what to expect from head coach Caitlin Dallmeyer. Their goal was to come back and be prepared for anything.
The coaching staff made significant efforts to make sure their athletes in the Netherlands were still active members of the team. Each week, the field hockey players would be assigned a fellow team member to have a phone call with.
“As a staff, we had to work very hard to stay connected via Zoom, and the time difference didn’t always help because classes weren’t all adjusted for our international athletes,” Dallmeyer said.
Dallmeyer said Bonthuis and Smorenburg had somewhat different experiences despite both of them being remote students.
“I think it was more difficult for Lotte (Smorenburg) because she was also a first-year and never had any of the Lehigh experience,” Dallmeyer said.
While an international college transition in a pandemic is far from easy, one advantage that benefited Smorenburg was the connections with her Dutch teammates.
Smorenburg was able to talk with Bonthuis and Havas during the recruitment process. They gave her advice on paperwork and the transition to the U.S. in general.
Smorenburg and Bonthuis said their experiences have been easier knowing they have teammates that are in the exact same position as them.
“It’s nice to have people who you can always reach out to if you’re struggling with something like homesickness or anything,” Smorenburg said.
Dallmeyer said that having international students on their roster is advantageous for the program.
Dallmeyer said field hockey is a popular sport in other countries and even sees a significant number of male athletes, which is atypical in the United States.
“Opening our minds to being able to find those players and integrate them into our hockey system here in the U.S. is really important to elevating our game as Lehigh field hockey players and U.S. field hockey players,” Dallmeyer said.
Both Bonthuis and Smorenburg were drawn to Lehigh due to its rigorous academics and challenging field hockey program. Smorenburg said the team environment is healthy and welcoming to new players.
While every team’s goal is to win championships, Bonthuis said she would also like to work on building an elevated team dynamic and improving their communication skills.
On March 7, the trio will get to finally play when Lehigh takes on American University in the season-opener.