GLENSIDE, Pa. (CBS) — The collegiate hockey season doesn’t begin until the fall, but there’s plenty of work to be done at Arcadia University before its women’s program plays for the first time. Their opening game will also include a first for the entire sport.
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“There are a lot of really amazing opportunities that hockey can open the doors to,” Kelsey Koelzer, head coach of Arcadia University’s women’s hockey team, said.
Koelzer seized hers as a player. The Horsham, Pennsylvania, native stared at Princeton University, becoming a 2016 All-American for the Tigers and the No. 1 overall pick in the National Women’s Hockey League, where she played for three years.
“If I were an opposing coach, I would say take advantage of the risks that girl takes,” Koelzer said.
Aggressive physical play was Koelzer’s calling card from the start. Now, it’s her recruitment strategy. Hired as the first Black head coach in the history of NCAA hockey in 2019 and inspiration in a sport that’s starved for diversity.READ MORE: Bucks County Police Chiefs Detail How George Floyd's Murder Changes How They Work
“Every single day I do wake up and there is this moment of shock,” Koelzer said. “Like, it’s 2019, how was I the first really? When I sit back and think about it. But it’s something that continues to be really special for me.”
“I think for her, she’s the inspiration because there is going to be other little girls that look like her and they’re going to say she looks like me,” Mary Gibson-Merenich, Koelzer’s high school coach, said. “And they’re going to connect.”
She’s in charge of starting the Knights’ program, scheduled to begin play in the fall of this year.
Once a program cornerstone, she’s now the architect.
“That’s why it’s so great for Kelsey to have taken this, to be a pioneer,” Gibson-Merenich said. “That’s the cool thing. I can have the joy of saying that I coached a pioneer in this field.”MORE NEWS: Body Of Missing Amish Teen Linda Stoltzfoos Found In Ronks, Lancaster District Attorney's Office Confirms
“It has just shifted a bit in knowing, well you’ve got the job, now prove it,” Koelzer said.