Posted: February 28, 2008
They say good things come in small packages. Kate Marvel stands just over five feet tall, yet is one of the top softball players in the northeast. The reigning Player of the Year in the Patriot League, Marvel has posted impressive offensive numbers throughout her career and has been an accomplished student in the classroom. Her demeanor may strike one as quiet or unassuming, but she carries a sense of relaxed intensity that can quickly prove those preconceived notions wrong.
“Kate lets her actions speak for her,” says Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “She’s not a ‘rah-rah’ type leader. She leads by playing the game as hard as anyone we’ve ever had.”
Softball has taken up a large chunk of Marvel’s life for a very long time. The Manasquan, N.J. native began playing on under-19 travel teams as a 14 year old, and spent a large portion of her springs, summers and even falls playing competitively. As a senior in high school, she traveled out west with her Team New Jersey on a weekly basis during the fall, which often meant having to miss school on Friday’s.
“When you’ve been playing for so many years, the sport can become time consuming,” says Marvel, who also played three years of varsity tennis before focusing on softball. “The time commitment discouraged a lot of my friends away from the game, but it really taught me a lot about time management. It really helped prepare me for college, because when I got here I already was comfortable with road trips and taking care of the workload.”
“We knew about Kate very early on,” adds Troyan. “From an athletic standpoint, we knew all along she had the potential to be an impact player right away. We had to demonstrate to her that Lehigh would be a great environment to continue her softball career and to pursue her academic interests as well.”
From game one of her freshman season, her name has been written into the lineup card on a daily basis; batting leadoff, and playing centerfield. A .307 batting average, including a 13 game hitting streak was good enough to earn first-team all-league honors and the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year award.
As a sophomore, Marvel raised her average to .360 and smacked a school single-season record-tying nine triples. In the opening game of the NCAA Regional against No. 13 Texas A&M, Marvel set the table for a two-run Mountain Hawk first inning rally, leading off the game with a double off of former Team New Jersey teammate Amanda Scarborough. She finished that day 3-for-4 and scored the game’s first run, as Lehigh stunned the Aggies 4-3.
Marvel’s numbers continued to improve into her junior campaign. She hit a staggering .415 in 2007, which led the Patriot League and ranked in the top 30 nationally. Her 61 base hits led the league, and she led the nation in triples per game. Marvel also continued to prove that her small frame could produce power, as she belted the first two home runs of her college career.
“Just by being in the lineup, Kate puts pressure on the defense,” says Troyan, who enters his 13th season as head coach. “She has the ability to carry a team offensively with her speed and ability to bunt. What our opponents have grown to learn is that she can hit for power, as well as speed, as indicated by her leading the nation in triples. It’s an indication of the type of player she is.”
“A lot of times opponents see me and view me as a slap hitter and I like to use that misconception to my advantage,” notes Marvel, who is also a two-time NFCA All-Region selection. “If they move in, I can hit the ball into the gaps, and if they move back I’ll drop down a bunt. I enjoy the mental part of the game, because once you’ve beaten the defense, they won’t know what to do.”
Meanwhile, Marvel’s numbers in the classroom should not go unnoticed. A three-time member of the Patriot League’s Academic Honor Roll, Marvel was named the Patriot League’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for softball, following Lehigh’s record setting 2006 season. She boasts a 3.74 grade point average as a religion studies major.
“I attended a Catholic high school (Red Bank Catholic), and my senior year I took a class on world religions,” Marvel explains. “The teacher, Ms. Logan, was really enthusiastic and taught the class very differently from the other religion classes I had to take. I loved the subjects we discussed because they encompassed other religions throughout the world and I became especially interested in Eastern religions.”
That led Marvel to take a religion class with Professor Robert Thomas Rozenhal, which she loved, but despite majoring in religion studies, Marvel’s future sights are set on education. She has already started taking some graduate courses and will be staying at Lehigh over the next two years pursuing her Masters in elementary education.
With her senior year in full swing, a new challenge has arisen. After spending her first three seasons in a supporting role to the team’s strongly developed leaders, Marvel, along with classmates Taryn Hanley and Megan Conrad were named captains for the 2008 softball season.
“Our senior class is a little more laid back, because we know what kind of things we’re capable of as a team,” says Marvel. “Megan and Taryn are more vocal with the team and I work better with the one on one conversation. Megan is a very focused and organized leader. Taryn is a great leader on the field; she's vocal and someone the infielders can turn to for advice. I tend to lead more by example. “
Don’t let her laid back attitude fool you, as Marvel finds plenty of ways to keep busy. Trips to the gym are routine for her, as she can often be found working out, or looking into different types of workouts. She now uses the summer as her off-season, with most of her time spent at the gym, or practicing yoga, or on the beach, or traveling abroad, or in one of her newest endeavors, working with young girls as a volunteer softball coach.
“I had a really good time,” says Marvel. “I was working with mostly 9-11 year olds. Teaching them leading and bunting, it was just something I did; I was a volunteer and didn’t want to be paid. I also worked with second graders at a children’s recreational camp, which I really enjoyed. I like being around children.”
With her senior season now underway, Marvel will be counted upon to help lead Lehigh to another Patriot League title, and hopefully, a fourth NCAA regional appearance in the last five years.
“I think Kate and the other seniors are in the process of establishing themselves as the leaders on our team,” says Troyan. “I’m seeing positive results. Kate has always been viewed as a leader by example, but now she is emerging from the background and people are looking to her to lead, and she’s rising to the occasion.”
Lehigh (4-0) returns to the diamond on Sunday as the Mountain Hawks head to Kissimmee, Florida to take part in the Rebel Spring Games. The Mountain Hawks will play ten games in six days, beginning with contests against Detroit at 9 a.m. and Fairfield at 1 p.m.