Lehigh field hockey had a historic 2022 season, turning it around after a rocky start. The Mountain Hawks finished 13-8, capping the year off with its first Patriot League Championship since 1994. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh field hockey reflects on historic season


Following a restructuring of the Lehigh field hockey team, coach Caitlin Dallmeyer led the team to its second Patriot League Championship title in program history earlier this month.

Dallmeyer said the coaching staff reorganized the team’s formation to play more of an attacking game than they had in the 2021 season, where the fitness and aggression of the midfielders allowed the team to move one player from the midfield to the attack line. 

Assistant coach Cara Bonshak said the strength of midfielders freshman Kiki Mes, senior Sarah Bonthuis and sophomore Julia Gatelein factored into this decision. 

The team also altered its game strategy. Dallmeyer said the team had a strong attacking corner unit in the 2021 season. As many of the athletes that were most successful on the corner unit graduated, the coaching staff said they knew they would have to change how they were attacking to target scoring on open field plays. 

“The way we’re being coached right now is to play in a two-touch, hockey kind of sense where it’s as much passing as you can,” Bonthuis said. “Sometimes when you look at other teams, they have one specific player that’s the superstar, and it’s all balls to that person, and we don’t really have that. We play together, for each other and with each other.” 

Bonthuis said these changes came after losses in the first two games of the season, including a 6-0 loss against Temple on Aug. 28.

“That was for all of us a wake-up call,” Bonthuis said. “I specifically remember coach (Dallmeyer’s) speech after in the locker room was really hard to hear, really tough, but she made all of us realize that that was not the kind of season we wanted to have.” 

Dallmeyer said Temple exposed the team’s weaknesses as they struggled to put together any passing combinations during the game. This was partly because it was early in the season and the coaching staff was still figuring out which lineups would work, especially with the team’s eight freshmen, she said. 

Following an up and down start to the season, the team lost its first Patriot League game 4-1 against Boston University on Sept. 17.

“Once again, we had a really hard meeting after,” Bonthuis said. “In the hotel, we were just talking for an hour and a half to figure out what we were going to do better. I think (Dallmeyer) asking us to be better not just for ourselves, but also for the program was really a huge turning point. After that, we fully switched it around.” 

The next day, the team won 5-1 against Sacred Heart. 

On Sept. 30, the team won its second Patriot League game 3-2 against Lafayette. 

Assistant Coach Cara Bonshak said competitive games like that one made the team realize they could hold their own against and even beat the bigger teams in the league. 

“Freshman year, we would go into games and be like, ‘We are the underdog. I think we have a good shot, but let’s just play our hearts out and see,’” Bonthuis said. “This year, expectations were a lot higher. We were expected to win. We were expected to perform.” 

This season was Dallmeyer’s seventh season as head coach. She was joined by both Bonshak and associate coach Teresa Mathews who were both in their first seasons in their respective positions. 

Dallmeyer said the coaching staff watches a lot of film, including that of other teams she hopes her team can emulate, to come up with the best tactics and strategies. 

Bonshak said Dallmeyer’s level of commitment to the team has contributed to their success. 

“She’s the mastermind behind it all,” Bonshak said. “She makes all the big decisions and she usually knows what’s best for all the players.”

Dallmeyer said she knows a tactic is successful when the team wins. 

And the team did win. 

On Nov. 3, Lehigh beat American 2-1 for the first time in school history, propelling the Mountain Hawks to the Patriot League Championship. Finishing the season with an overall record of 13-8, the team tied the 1984 squad for the third-most wins in Lehigh’s history. 

The team’s victory against Boston was its first Patriot League championship since 1994 and its first ever NCAA Tournament berth. 

“Standing back and watching how proud our team was to accept that trophy and all the emotions that came with it, I just have not felt more pride as a coach than in that moment,” Dallmeyer said.

Bonthuis said she is grateful to Dallmeyer for how much she has given her during her Lehigh career.  

“I remember I walked up to Dallmeyer and gave her the biggest hug I’ve ever given her,” Bonthuis said. “She’s not much of a hugger so she was probably really surprised I did that. It was a thank you for the past four years that she’s been my coach.”

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