For Lehigh field hockey senior captain Julia Gatelein, her sport is a family affair.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Gatelein began playing field hockey at 7 years old and her love for the sport only flourished from there.
Gatelein’s mother played field hockey at Rowan University.
“My mom was the one who really got me into (field hockey), and once I started, I really loved it and never looked back,” Gatelein said.
Ever since she was young, Gatelein said she wanted to play field hockey in college and was first drawn to Lehigh by former field hockey players M.J. Schwab, ‘22, and Drew Pecora, ‘21, who were both her former teammates in high school.
“They both spoke about how much they loved Lehigh,” Gatelein said. “Then when I visited, I loved the coaching staff and the team, and I immediately knew it would be the perfect fit for me.”
Throughout her four years at Lehigh, Gatelein has been a notable player on the field.
In her first season, Gatelein tied for leading the team in goals and points and was named to second team All-Patriot League. She also won the John S. Steckbeck Award, which is presented by Lehigh to a first-year female athlete for her outstanding play and high level of character.
During her sophomore year, Gatelein led the team in assists, tying for fourth most assists in the Patriot League. She was part of the Lehigh defensive unit that finished third overall in the Patriot League in scoring defense.
Continuing to her junior year, Gatelein was named to the All-Patriot League First Team, the Patriot League All-Tournament Team and the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Mideast Region Second Team.
In the Patriot League Tournament semifinal, Gatelein scored the game-winning goal against American University, which sent the Mountain Hawks to the championship game they would ultimately win.
Gatelein attributes her accomplishments to both her parents and teammates.
“My parents are my biggest supporters and have provided me with all of these opportunities to play and be successful,” Gatelein said. “Also, my teammates have always pushed me to be better and work on my weaknesses, so I owe a lot of my success to them.”
In her senior year, she was named for a second time to the NFHCA Division I Mideast Region Second Team and All-Patriot League First Team. Gatelein also landed on the NFHCA Senior Team, which consists of only 38 student-athletes.
Gatelein started in all 60 games she suited up for, scoring 10 goals and contributing 15 assists.
Senior defender Lotte Smorenburg said Gatelein is one of the best players she knows and her dedication to the program is shown through all of her accomplishments.
“The fact that she has gotten multiple awards throughout the years proves how consistent she has been and how she never settles with her level of play,” Smorenburg said. “She always tries to become better and is always giving 100% on and off the field.”
She said they have built a strong connection on the field through the years, and Smorenburg knows Gatelein will always have her back on defense.
Kiki Mes, a sophomore midfielder, said Gatelein is one of the most hardworking people she knows and has had an immense impact on the team.
“I think everyone sees her as an example of what a great hockey player looks like and everyone always looks up to her,” Mes said. “She makes an impact on the field and it’s very noticeable when she’s not there.”
Gatelein said she was quiey coming into the team but has grown a lot as a leader over recent years, becoming more vocal and learning how to mentor her teammates due to the support from the older players in the past.
Now, as a senior, Mes said she looks up to Gatelein and how she has made Mes become a better player.
“She always leads by example and is always challenging me and helping me with my position on the field,” Mes said.
In her four years, one of Gatelein’s most memorable moments was winning the Patriot League Championship.
“Winning the championship was one of the best days I’ve ever had,” Gatelein said. “No one thought we were going to be good or have a successful year, so to see all of our hard work pay off and prove people wrong felt really amazing.”
Next year, Gatelein will be staying at Lehigh to finish out her business major. She’s still deciding if she will return to the team for a fifth year.
She said looking back on her time as a Mountain Hawk has made her realize how special her time at Lehigh has been and helped her forge some of her deepest friendships.
“Every single person on the team is one of my best friends, and our team feels like a family,” Gatelein said. “Playing the sport you love with your best friends is really an unforgettable experience.”