In the past decade, only one field hockey player had been named the NESCAC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.
That changed Monday when Katie Riley ’14 was given the honor for the second week in a row after a hat-trick performance at Hamilton and a game-winning overtime goal in a white-knuckle victory over Amherst.
“It was really exciting, but it was really surprising, too,” Riley, a forward, said of twice receiving the award. “I wasn’t expecting it. Everyone on our team does their job and I was just lucky enough to get that.”
Teammate and co-captain Cathleen Smith wasn’t quite as shocked.
“No,” said Smith when asked if she was surprised. “She’s been on fire.”
Riley’s hot-streak started off on the first week of October, when she led the Polar Bears to three decisive victories over conference foes. She scored four goals in a 6-1 blowout over Bates and had a goal and an assist each in a 3-0 win against Colby. Riley finished the week by assisting on all three of Bowdoin goals in a shutout win over Williams. Her 14 points for the week more than doubled her previous total to 24.
After being named Player of the Week the first time, Riley had another impressive set of games. She scored three goals in a 6-1 match over winless Hamilton, but Riley’s biggest moment of the week came in the tight victory over the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s 15th ranked Amherst.
“Amherst is a very emotional team,” said Riley. “They’re fun to play against, but they’re tough to play against, and I think we’re similar. Their goalie is really good and we had a lot of opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on them.”
“It was one of our hardest games of the season,” added Smith. “Our defense was incredible and let nothing through. That allowed a ton of chances for the forwards. We kept trying and kept trying, but it ended up going into overtime.”
Two minutes and thirteen seconds into the extra period, the Polar Bears finally broke through. Brooke Phinney’s shot from the top of the circle was deflected by Smith, and Riley forcefully batted the ball out of the air and into the net. The next day, she was once again named the NESCAC Player of the Week.
Riley worked hard over the summer and has stepped up to take a larger role in the offense this season after the graduation of NFHCA All-American forwards Katie Herter and Elizabeth Clegg.
“Over the summer I worked at five or six field hockey camps. That was just my focus for the summer,” said Riley.
“The biggest change I’ve seen in her is her confidence and her decision making,” said Head Coach Nicky Pearson. “She worked incredibly hard on her game over the summer, improving her stick work and her elimination skills.”
“She’s so fast, and getting those skills down has allowed her to use her speed effectively,” said Smith.
Coach Pearson is very pleased with the way Riley is playing, and expects to see more from her as the Polar Bears approach the playoffs.
“She’s working hard inside the circle and demanding the ball,” said Pearson. “Katie has this mindset that she wants to do her part and she wants to make a difference. She’s using her speed and her elimination skills in our transition game to create opportunities for herself.