From left to right: Drew Pecora, Giavanna Tabbachino, Satoshi Abe and Lenke Havas. These 5th year athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility at Lehigh due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Q&A: Catching up with fifth-year athletes


Due to COVID-19 regulations all athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility to return for their fifth year at Lehigh. The Brown and White caught up with four student athletes in their fifth season to talk about their experience at Lehigh.

Question: Why did you choose Lehigh?

Drew Pecora (Field Hockey): Honestly, I didn’t know much about Lehigh in the recruiting process. I received an email from Lehigh and came to campus for a spring tournament and fell in love. I continued to come to clinics and the more I built a relationship with the coaching staff and understood their vision for the program, I knew it was where I wanted to be.

Satoshi Abe (Wrestling): Lehigh wasn’t on my radar. When I was a junior in high school the coaching staff came to a clinic for my club. I was able to come on a visit, meet the team, coaches and learn about the culture. I committed shortly after.

Lenke Havas (Field Hockey): The main reason for me was the connection with the coach. My recruiting process was shorter than most. From the Skype conversations early on with the coach, it became clear the vision in building a winning program and to be a part of that journey sounded fulfilling.

Giavanna Tabbachino (Women’s Track / Cross Country): I received a recruiting letter from Lafayette, and my uncle told me that Lehigh was close to Lafayette and that I should look into Lehigh. I reached out to Coach Utesch and scheduled a visit. I knew I wanted to study engineering and did my research for the different engineering majors. I saw industrial systems and knew it was right on spot.”  

Q: How has your leadership shifted throughout your time as a Mountain Hawk?

DP: There has been vocal growth but I am more of a lead by example type of person. When I’m on the field I like to communicate with the girls around me. Being on this team has pushed me more than I thought I could have been pushed by my play and voice.

SA: Looking back, I’m seeing myself in the shoes of the fifth-years when I was on the team as a freshman. I have developed a voice and am finding the balance of the right time when and when not to use it. 

LH: Our personnel has changed a lot with people leaving and entering the program. My leadership shifted in a way where I could demand more from people who had the same vision. Now we are at a point where we can demand more from each other because we all want the same thing and get to a better place. 

GT:  As a graduate student I have taken a step back and have really enjoyed seeing the underclassmen step up into leadership roles, seeing the progression and how far they have come.

Q: Can you describe the culture of the wrestling team and what it has meant to you to be  part of such a nationally ranked team year in and year out?

SA: We have a tradition of being a nationally ranked team. While it adds some pressure, it adds some expectation that we are going to work hard. We have to prove it year in and year out and we make each other grind for it.

Q: Sophomore year you experienced an injury. What was that process like recovering? 

DP: I found out about my injury two weeks before preseason. It was one of the most mentally challenging points in my life. After coming off of a strong freshman season I had a lot to prove my sophomore year. I had to realize the shift in my role and how much more I could grow as a player off of the field. I was forced into more of a vocal role which shaped me into a better leader and teammate. 

Q: After graduation, what are your career aspirations?

LH: I am currently in the applied economics program for my masters right now. I want to go into the business world after I graduate but do not have a set path yet. I see myself having a position in the business world and as I grow and get older I want to see myself in a leadership position.

Q: How did you respond when you were granted another year of eligibility?    

GT: With COVID-19 giving us eligibility for cross country and track, I saw an opportunity to put myself in a better position career wise with a master’s degree. I love competing and training with my friends and teammates and the combination of both is why I decided to stay here. 

Q: What advice do you provide to younger teammates?

DP: The seniors from my freshman year used to tell us to stop, appreciate and embrace every moment and I try to do the same with the younger girls on our team. Have fun and enjoy it all.

SA: I like to keep everything in perspective. Whether we have a tough workout, loss, or win, there’s always room to grow. Taking things the way they are, not the end all be all. 

LH: Be patient and believe in the end goal. It can be tough being a part of a building program where you are putting in the work but not seeing the results yet. Don’t get discouraged when you are facing adversity. Use it as motivation to work harder.

GT: Make the most of the relationships you make. Your friendships and teammates will last beyond academics and athletics. 

Q: You can pick three people to eat lunch with at the Goose. Who are you choosing and Why?

DP: Serena Williams. She has paved the way for so many female athletes and advocates so well for the younger generation. I’m a huge Philly sports fan so I’m sticking with a Philadelphia sports player, Chase Utley. Finally, I would bring my roommate Lenke Havas. We do everything together and I couldn’t be by myself at that meal without her.

SA: Jordan Wood. We push each other to eat more food when we’re together. Guy Fieri, the mayor of flavortown. Joey Chestnut, to see how the job works in person.

LH: The first one that pops into my head is Drew Pecora. We literally do everything together, including taking a fifth year. I’d invite Rihanna because I love her music and she’s a powerful woman. I’m also a big fan of the Dutch National Field Hockey Team and former player Maartje Paumen. When it comes to field hockey she has always been my idol.

GT: My roommate Kara Bonner, Taylor Swift and Derek Jeter. I’m a huge Yankee fan and he would bring great advice as an athlete. Taylor Swift, I’m a huge fan and would love to hear about the drama in her lyrics.

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