By: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Media Relations
Kim Eng is one of six Lehigh field hockey seniors who will play their final regular season game on Saturday as the Mountain Hawks host archrival Lafayette at 11 a.m. Hard to believe it was three years ago when she entered Lehigh with a bang, posting a Patriot League leading 13 goals and 34 points. Over her career, she helped lead the Mountain Hawks to two league tournaments while becoming one of Lehigh’s all-time greatest scorers in the process.
“Kim can always make me laugh,” said second-year head coach Stacey Blue, who recruited Eng while she was an assistant at Lehigh. “She wants more than anything for others to succeed before herself and her ability to beat anyone and finish is truly tremendous. Kim’s impact has been huge, both on and off the field, and she will surely be missed by all. She should be proud of the career she established here at Lehigh.”
The youngest of three, Eng’s older sisters also played field hockey in college: Rachel (at Penn) and Erica (at William & Mary). Kim knew the sport beginning in third grade, playing in gym class, and began to play competitively in fifth.
Being around her sisters, Kim always had aspirations of playing field hockey in college.
“I always knew I could and wanted to play in college,” said Kim. “My freshman year in high school was when I started getting emails from coaches who were interested in me. That’s when it hit me [I could play collegiately].”
Eng was a standout at Madison High School in New Jersey, earning Morris County Player of the Year as a senior when she tallied a school-record 40 goals and 25 assists. Most importantly, she came from a winning program and brought that mentality with her to Lehigh.
“I think the skills she learned in high school, and working with The Edge (field hockey club), made her transition to college very easy,” said Blue. “She’s been a top scorer in the Patriot League every year.”
“My high school team did really well,” said Kim. “I came in with a lot of confidence, which I think helped our team my first year. Being confident seemed to make others around me more confident as well. I was very committed and that whole summer [leading into freshman year], I just worked on training.”
Lehigh naturally rose to the top when considering college options.
“When you go on your official visit, you get to see the school and meet the team,” said Eng. “After being on a few officials from other schools, I decided Lehigh was the best for me. I really enjoyed the team and thought I really connected with everyone.”
Eng went on to post a league-leading 13 goals and 34 points as a freshman in leading Lehigh to a Patriot League Tournament appearance. The Mountain Hawks doubled their win total from a season prior while winning key league games against Colgate and Holy Cross; Eng scored all three Lehigh goals in the Mountain Hawks’ 3-2 win over the Crusaders which clinched the postseason berth.
Kim followed that up with 13 points as a sophomore. Although the season didn’t end as they would have liked, it gave the Mountain Hawks extra fuel to come back strong last season… which they did.
“Sophomore year was a disappointment because we didn’t make it to the tournament, but I think that really lit a fire under us,” said Eng. “We wanted to make the tournament so bad knowing that we were good and could make it.”
Lehigh struggled to begin last year, dropping its first three games and eight of its first nine, but Eng and the Mountain Hawks responded when it mattered most. They went on to win four of their final six regular season games, including big Patriot League victories over Colgate, Bucknell and Holy Cross to finish 3-2 in league play for the first time since 2007. In doing so, they earned the #3 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
“We started winning and our confidence just built up,” said Eng. “From there, we got more confidence and were able to prove ourselves that we could not only make the tournament, but also be in third place. Beating Bucknell was the best feeling.”
That 1-0 Senior Day win over the Bison came against the same Bucknell team which went on to advance to the Patriot League Championship Game, defeating perennial league champion American not only in the regular season, but also the league semifinals.
The 2011 season also marked the first year of a new coaching staff as Blue, a former Lehigh assistant, returned as head coach while former Drexel standout Susan Ciufo came on as assistant coach.
“Stacey recruited me and a number of my classmates,” said Eng. “I feel like the transition [between coaching staffs] was really smooth. Since we already knew her, there were no surprises because we knew what she was like. We already knew her coaching style and what we were getting in to.”
Although her senior year hasn’t played out as she would’ve hoped, there have been a number of positives that the team can be proud of. The Mountain Hawks defeated a CAA team for the first time since 2006 and in doing so, scored their most goals since 2004. Lehigh topped Monmouth for the first time since 2005, defeated a Big East squad (Georgetown) on the road and feature two of the league’s top offensive players in Eng and sophomore Lindsay Metzger.
“Our coaches have a lot of faith in us,” said Eng. “Throughout the season, we haven’t had as many wins as we planned, but because of their faith in us, we’ve been able to push through all the games, try our hardest and never give up. I think that’s important for teams to keep that tenacity and competitiveness. I thought it showed a lot of heart on our team.”
Eng admits it hasn’t yet hit that Senior Day is just days away. Saturday won’t be Kim’s last time playing field hockey competitively. In January, she will travel to an indoor field hockey tournament in Trinidad with her club team, The Edge. However, the college experience is something she’ll greatly miss.
“It’s gone by so quickly,” she said. “It will probably hit me when the day comes. But as of right now, I’m still playing… I just hope I don’t have any regrets.
“My coach keeps telling me, think about what it will be like after your season,” Eng continued. “You don’t want to have any regrets; make sure you leave everything out on the field. It’s your senior year and your last season.”
The Mountain Hawks’ character and camaraderie is evident in a special Fox Trot 5K for Parkinson’s Research which senior Kelsey Zeswitz is organizing in honor of her mother Chrissie, who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Eng and her teammates have played key roles in helping organize the event, assisting not only a teammate, but also helping in the fight against a chronic disease.
“[Organizing the 5K] shows a lot about Kelsey’s personality and her heart,” said Eng. “She had a goal in mind and was able to make that goal, and surpass it. It was really good for our whole team to not only participate, but we also went to our classes and told everyone about it. We were able to communicate it to a number of people, including our families and relatives.”
Word certainly got out about the 5K, which will take place this Sunday, just a day after the season finale. With an initial fundraising goal of $2,500, the total has already surpassed $5,000 and continues to increase by the day. Even after the season ends, the Mountain Hawks will “team up” for something much bigger than a game.
Eng will be remembered for her on-field play, her character, leadership and more. In the end, she wants to be remembered more for helping the team than any individual accolades.
“I want people to remember me for not only individually playing well, but also helping out the team,” she said. “In the sense that because I played well, I was able to help others around me play up to my level. Help the team move further. I want our team to do well because that shows a lot more than individual accolades.”
“Kim is naturally gifted, but she has put a lot of time into her craft,” said Blue. “She is incredible at stick handling and shooting but overall, she is a natural player who is easy to coach and knows the game. She’s a leader who many look up to, on and off the field. Did I mention she’s also studying Engineering?”
Eng will earn her degree in Mechanical Engineering. She’s applying for various jobs, but is unsure where she’ll end up. With it only being the fall, it’s still very early in the process.
“Right now, I’m filling out applications,” said Eng. “I’ve been applying to a bunch of places. I’m not too picky about the area. I do want it to be hands-on; I don’t really want to be sitting in an office. My dream job would be to work for a car company and design cars.”
On and off the field, Eng has, and will continue to be, successful. It’s especially exciting for someone like Blue, who first recruited Kim, left for a head coaching job at American International College before returning to witness Eng’s final two seasons as Lehigh’s head coach.
“Kim is an unselfish player who really only cares about her teammates and their success rather than her own,” said Blue. “It’s very rewarding to watch Kim succeed.”