De Koning makes her mark with defending national champion field hockey team
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
In her first career home game on Sept. 1, Lotte de Koning made sure the record crowd –– on site to watch the unveiling of the 2016 National Champion banner –– knew who she was.
The freshman scored just a few minutes into the game, but the goal was waived off for being too high. Minutes later, she smacked home her first career goal, a Greta Nauck-esque backhander that whistled past the Dartmouth goalie. De Koning would go on to record three goals in the game, becoming the sixth-ever Blue Hen to tally a hat trick as a freshman.
Against Penn and Liberty on Sept. 8 and 10, respectively, the Swiss native collected three more goals, earning her CAA rookie of the week accolades. Her six goals on the season place her just one behind defending national player of the year Greta Nauck for the team lead through six games. Delaware sits at 5-1, ranked No. 6 in the top 25 poll.
“It’s awesome,” Nauck said. “She’s a tremendous player … she knows when to shoot the ball, she has a really good shot, knows when to pass the ball, to assist, knows when to hit, so that’s really effective as a forward and helps us a lot in terms of scoring.”
De Koning’s addition is much needed for a team that returns only two of its top five goal scorers from a year ago –– Nauck and senior Taylor Lister.
Head Coach Rolf van de Kerkhof said the freshman class –– including starters de Koning, Joosje van Weperen and Femke Strien, along with Emily Kresho, Ellie Schepens, Emma Velez and Conner Allen –– came into the season as fit as he’s ever seen a freshman class come in.
“You need about three, four weeks, so actually six weeks including preseason to get a feel for who is where and what they are going to do together and they’ve done a phenomenal job,” van de Kerkhof said. “It’s really nice to see that some of the freshman start to play more and we’re only four weeks into the season, so I’m happy with where we are right now.”
Van de Kerkhof, who consistently recruits top-notch international talent, brings in three international players in this year’s class: de Koning, van Weperen and Strien, which makes Delaware’s roster 32 percent international players, the second-highest percentage of any team currently ranked in the top 10 of the field hockey top 25 poll.
De Koning –– much like other international players seeking to play field hockey at an American university –– created a video of her hockey skills. The video, then sent through an international organization dedicated to helping international-born players find potential American universities, found it’s way to van de Kerkhof.
“At first, you don’t know what universities there are and you’re not familiar with how the process goes, so seeking help from such an organization can really help with the process,” de Koning said.
De Koning, who began playing field hockey at age six, traveled to Amsterdam in her early adolescent years to play on a national level. Upon recruitment by van de Kerkhof, she visited Delaware in late 2016, spending time with junior forward and fellow Dutch player Lisa Giezeman.
Last year’s championship roster contained six international players, all starters who played integral roles in the team’s run. While the team loses two of them to graduation –– midfielders Marjelle Scheffers and Esmée Peet –– the immediate impact provided by de Koning is a necessary boost.
Listed as playing both defense and midfield, de Koning said she prefers midfield –– it’s a position she’s excelled at so far this season, tallying 13 total points and 24 shots on goal, only second to Nauck.
“She can do it all,” van de Kerkhof said. “If she keeps things simple, she can do everything and from a personal perspective, I think she could be a player for Rookie of the Year in the conference … she could be a great All-American caliber player and maybe one day it’s time for her to say ‘Greta, move over, I won that as well.’”