Lehigh field hockey senior forward Lotte Smorenburg puts the ball in play during the game against Saint Francis on Sept. 15 at Ulrich Sports Complex. Smorenburg has scored four goals this season. (Holly Fasching/B&W Staff)

Crossing the world to play in college: Lotte Smorenburg


Netherlands native and Lehigh field hockey senior defender Lotte Smorenburg said showing off the name “Lehigh” on her jersey every week makes everything feel extra special.

Four thousand miles from home, Smorenburg has made a name for herself in NCAA field hockey, wearing her Lehigh jersey proudly.  

Smorenburg started in all 21 games of Lehigh’s 2022 Patriot League Championship season and received Patriot League defensive player of the week honors on Sept. 11.

Smorenburg said the team’s initial struggles last season were only temporary. After figuring out the perfect team chemistry and lineup, things “finally clicked,” leading the Mountain Hawks into a momentum-driven postseason and Lehigh’s second league title in program history.

When she was 6 years old, Smorenburg was gifted her first mini hockey stick from her parents, who urged her to follow in both her sister’s and mother’s footsteps to play field hockey on a local club team near her hometown of Rotterdam. 

“I would go to my sister’s practices and games and just hit around with my stick, and honestly, I immediately fell in love with the sport,” Smorenburg said.

After getting involved in the sport, her mother was a team manager for one of her youth teams and drove her to practice up to three times a week. 

A few years later, when she was 13, Smorenburg said her mother heard some Dutch field hockey players were going to play at the collegiate level in the United States. From then on, she said, that idea stuck.

Supported and encouraged by her parents, Smorenburg said she used a Dutch recruiting agency to get in touch with college coaches in the U.S. based on her preferences in size of school, location and academic rigor.

One of the first coaches she connected with through the agency was a former coach of the Lehigh field hockey team, Caitlin Dallmeyer. She helped Smorenburg to visit Lehigh’s campus for the first time when she was a senior in high school.

“As soon as I stepped foot on Lehigh’s campus, I knew it was the school for me,” Smorenburg said.

She said there are no school teams in the Netherlands, only club sports, and colleges in the Netherlands typically don’t have campuses either. This made the dorming and campus experience two things she would not have been exposed to without Lehigh.

Lehigh’s academic rigor, scenic campus and team dynamic were aspects that drew her in. When Smorenburg was on her visit, she said the other Dutch student-athletes on the team made her feel at home and at ease.

This season, Smorenburg is joined on the team by two other Netherlands natives, sophomore Kiki Mes and junior Guusje Hogendoorn. 

“Having other Dutch players on the team is really great because they understand what it’s like to live far away from home,” Mes said. “And it’s nice to speak Dutch once in the while too.”

Smorenburg described the field hockey team as “one big friend group” and said she is close with many players on the team.

Senior defender Erica Steele said Smorenburg’s outspokenness during practice and games brings up the energy for the entire team.

“She goes into every drill and game with a very high level of intensity and really sets the pace for the rest of us,” Steele said.

Despite support from her teammates, Smorenburg said nothing could have perfectly prepared her for what it would be like to transition from living at home to the U.S.

Although she describes her time living in the U.S. as a “rollercoaster,” Smorenburg said she is glad she has lived here and is getting to have an American college experience.

“I always say (the experience) comes really close to what you see in the movies,” Smorenburg said.

After her time at Lehigh studying supply chain management, Smorenburg said she sees herself staying in the U.S. for a few more years — pursuing a graduate degree  and getting U.S. work experience — before returning to the Netherlands to settle down and eventually raise a family there.

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