After starting for EMU’s field hockey team for four years, Janae Kauffman (Harleysville, Pa./Dock Mennonite Academy) has finally finished her outstanding career.
Despite facing some unknowns when she came into her final season, Janae rose to the challenge and adapted.
Her senior year was a year of change. She had a new coach as well as a new position to contend with, moving from defense to midfield.
“I wanted to come into it the best I could, you know,” Janae said, “because you always have to impress the new coach.”
Janae had played defense for her entire collegiate career. She had some prior experience as a midfielder, however, as she switched from midfield to defense her sophomore year of high school.
“It was a hard transition...So I had played mid before, but that was hard and I got to college and I was like yeah, I love it back here!” she laughed. “But it was kind of cool to learn a new position senior year, (although) it was definitely something that I kind of struggled with for a little bit.”
Along with her new position came her first and only collegiate goal. Up until her switch to midfield, her scoring a goal had been an ongoing joke with her team.
“I was like, I’m gonna score, ‘cause I’m on defense!” Janae said, laughing. “And then I did this year, and I was just kind of shocked that it actually happened. But yeah, it was exciting. It was a good feeling to finally check that one thing off my list of things to accomplish.”
Janae reflected on the highs and lows of her senior year.
“A definite high would just be the team, and I think they helped my senior year go well. I saw my senior year either being really terrible because it was a new coach and it was basically an all new team, or it could go really well for the same reason.”
She paused thoughtfully.
“A low would be that halfway through the season....I couldn’t mentally be all in field hockey and all in school at the same time. So there was a definite point there like halfway through that it was really hard.”
This season, however, Janae made a conscious effort to connect with her team.
“I’m not really an outgoing person but I definitely tried to talk,” she explained, “to be more a part of the team and build relationships with everyone and kind of not necessarily be a verbal leader, but be someone who was always there and giving all I’ve got.”
Janae is a math education major, and this conscious effort was especially important for her this year, as she missed part of preseason for student teaching.
“I kind of had to come in with the mentality that it was going to be a little harder because of that,” she said. “Not like working out, just that you have to put in extra effort to be a part of the team because you miss that crucial week.”
Janae started playing field hockey when she was in middle school, after watching her older sister’s games for years.
“I really enjoyed watching it and I thought it would be fun to play, to have that in common with her.”
She reflected on what kept her coming back to the sport year after year.
“I think it was just kind of loving being part of a team. It’s a group of people I wouldn’t necessarily be friends with outside of hockey, which is cool,” she smiled. “And also just love of the sport.”
Janae looks forward to becoming a teacher after her graduation.
“My plan is to teach math. Where, I’m not sure. I used to be dead set on going home to Pennsylvania, just because I love it at home, but Harrisonburg is slowly growing on me, so I’m not counting out this area...I think it would be fun to stay here for a little bit after graduation.”
She also looks forward to seeing the field hockey team grow in the coming years.
“I think with the team right now I definitely see a bright future for them,” she said. “Everyone works well together and I can just see them going far.”
“I think it’s kind of cool that us three seniors, we came in together and we’re leaving together and there aren’t many other classes that could say that...it’s just kind of cool that the three of us stuck with it through all the coaching changes.”
Coach Ashley Kisner agreed that Janae made a huge impact on the team.
“She really stepped up into a leadership role during the coaching change this year,” Coach Kisner said. “She is quiet, but leads through example and through her hard work and play. She will be missed!”
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, Sports Information Intern