By John Boccacino/Sports Information
Keuka College’s intercollegiate athletics teams won seven regular and postseason North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championships during the 2013-14 school year.
The Storm also dominated in the classroom, leading the NEAC in Scholar-Athlete selections (89) for the third time in four years.
While these successes made for a big year on campus, athletic director Dave Sweet is always searching for ways to improve the student-athlete experience.
For the fourth straight year, Sweet announced the College is expanding its athletics offerings by bringing women’s field hockey to campus, which will debut in the fall of 2015 as Keuka College’s 18th sport.
Tarah Christenson, who started the field hockey program at St. John Fisher College and has spent time coaching at both Utica College and the University of Rochester, was hired by Sweet to oversee the Storm’s field hockey program.
“What stands out about Tarah is her experience in field hockey and her ability to recruit talented student-athletes,” said Sweet, who oversaw the addition of women’s golf (2011), men’s volleyball (2012) and equestrian (2013) in recent years.
“Tarah built the St. John Fisher program from point A to point B real quickly, and that’s the kind of energy we’re looking for at Keuka College as we get our field hockey program up and running. When I talked to her references and her former players, they respected her as a coach and an educator, and that’s what we’re constantly looking for at Keuka. I know she will recruit well and help us get the numbers to make Keuka a competitive program.”
Sweet said plans are also in the works for a state-of-the-art turf field facility on campus, with the facility tentatively slated to open in the fall of 2015.
The facility will be utilized by the field hockey team, as well as the men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer and both the baseball and softball teams.
“I’m really excited for this new challenge of building up the field hockey program at Keuka College,” said Christenson, the wife of current Keuka College women’s soccer coach Steve Christenson.
“That experience of building a program at Fisher will serve as a tremendous asset as we build our program at Keuka. We’re building from the ground up and I will rely on my strong recruiting habits to attract the right type of student-athlete to Keuka. We will get field hockey players who can come in, work hard and set a strong precedent for our first seasons.”
Christenson started the field hockey team at Fisher in 2011, and her teams won 18 games in her three-year tenure, including going 10-10 and advancing into the Empire 8 championship in 2013 before falling to Utica College.
Not only did her teams achieve success on the field, but her student-athletes were honored for their academic successes, too. In all three seasons leading the Cardinals, Christenson’s teams received the Division III National Academic Team Award from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) for academic excellence.
Christenson was a field hockey standout at Division I Central Michigan University from 2000-2003, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Environmental Studies. She served as a co-captain her senior season, when she was recognized as a NFHCA Division I North/South Senior All-Star. Her strong play also earned her West Region Second-Team and Mid-America Conference First-Team honors.
After graduating, Christenson served as the assistant field hockey coach at Utica from 2004-07. During that time, the Pioneers captured an NCAA appearance (2005) and won an Empire 8 championship (2006).
Additionally, Christenson has coached the Futures Program and instructed at the Syracuse University Field Hockey Camp, the Merestead Sports Camps, and the Utica College Field Hockey Camp. She also coached at the University of Rochester Field Hockey camp from 2009-14, as well as the Finger Lakes Field Hockey club.
“One of the big things you’re selling is the chance to be part of something brand new,” said Christenson. “Some will love it, some won’t, but it is an exciting opportunity to build the foundation of a program. These student-athletes will make history. I understand it will be a challenge, but the turf field will be a huge selling point, as will the strong academic programs, the Field Period program and also being right on the lake.”
She feels her strong recruiting background will only help attract top-level field hockey talent to Keuka College’s emerging program.
“Coaching is my passion, I love to coach and it just sings to my soul,” Christenson said. “I love building something from the beginning and I’m so excited to have that opportunity at Keuka again. Coaching comes down to teaching. If you assemble a roster of teachable student-athletes who are willing to work hard, anything is possible.”
Christenson earned a Master of Science in Education degree from Utica College of Syracuse University in 2007. She currently resides in Brockport with her husband, Steve, and their son, Reid, 4.