Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier sports editor
Katherine Athens is the new assistant coach for the Berry women’s lacrosse team. Athens has a wealth of experience in lacrosse, both as a student-athlete and coach.
As a child with a father in the military, Athens said that she moved around a lot during this time of her life, but she spent most of her childhood in Maryland. This is where she started playing lacrosse.
Athens said that when her father taught her how to catch and throw and she made her first catch, she was instantly addicted to lacrosse.
“All of my older brothers grew up playing lacrosse, so I grew up having a men’s stick, but once I started to get a little bit older, my dad was like, ‘Alright, here’s a woman’s stick. You’ve got to learn how to play with this because this is what you’re going to play,’” Athens said.
Athens did not officially start playing lacrosse until her freshman year of high school.
“I knew I wanted to play in college, so I was on a club team for one year,” Athens said.
Pfeiffer University, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II (DII), started recruiting her after this. The experience at Pfeiffer was great, according to Athens.
“Our program was a growing program and my junior and senior years, we were able to be in the conference championship,” Athens said. “We didn’t win it, but we were getting there. We made two appearances in the NCAA tournament, which was an awesome experience.”
Athens was an accounting major at Pfeiffer, but after graduation, she said that she was not ready to give up lacrosse. She was hired as a graduate assistant at Messiah College, a Division III (DIII) program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“It was definitely very cold, but that was an awesome beginning experience,” Athens said. “I came in with a very experienced coach, a very experienced program, so I was able to learn a lot of things there.”
After earning her Master’s degree and serving as a graduate assistant, Athens stayed at Messiah and became a part-time assistant coach.
Athens said something really interesting about her time at Messiah was that she had the opportunity to coach her sister for three years.
After her time at Messiah, Athens moved to Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, a NCAA Division I (DI) program.
“That was another growing program that was trying to make some mark in their conference,” Athens said. “Being at the Division I level was a fun experience.”
Athens said that even though she had a great experience at a DI college, she wanted to come back to DIII because she said that she loves how DIII is about developing student-athletes as a whole and not specifically focused on developing athletes as solely athletes.
When searching for programs, Athens said that she spent a lot of time looking at the head coach for every program that she was applying to. She said that she was very focused in the questions that she asked with all of the head coaches that she interviewed with.
Head Coach Brittni Hall is something that really drew Athens to Berry.
“Coach Hall really stood out in all of those different things, the vision she has for the program, her heart for the players and just her lacrosse knowledge was something that I knew that would be easy to buy into and I was excited to come in and be part of, but also bring my knowledge and excitement for the game to give to this program,” Athens said.
In addition to this, Athens said that she decided to come to Berry because she wanted to move to the South to be closer to her family and for warmer weather.
Athens said that she hopes to make a strong impact knowledge-wise on the Berry program and help push the student-athletes to the next level, all while developing strong relationships.
“At the end of the day, I’m just excited to love on these girls and excited to make an impact in doing something that I love,” Athens said.
The best part of lacrosse is how competitive and dynamic it is, according to Athens.
“I love competition in any way, whether it’s a board game, a lacrosse game, I’m really competitive,” Athens said.
When Athens is not coaching lacrosse, she can be found playing in the tennis league that she joined, baking or enjoying the outdoors and being active.
Hall said that when she hired Athens, she was looking to hire a new assistant coach for the program, specifically someone who had previous coaching experience and someone who would have chemistry with the coaching staff.
“I think it’s so important to be a unified body when it comes to leadership of a team because that really trickles down to the culture of your team,” Hall said.
Athens was one of the top three candidates that came to campus and she brought not only the previous coaching experience and team-chemistry qualifications, but she also brought passion and enthusiasm, according to Hall.
Something that stood out to Hall about Athens was her passion for DIII.
“She matched a lot of the direction and the vision that we’re heading towards,” Hall said.
Senior defender Miranda Smith said that she, along with sophomore defender Hayley DeSandre, interviewed Athens.
Smith said that three people total were interviewed for the position. Athens was Smith’s favorite because she wants what is best for the team and is energetic.
“When I found out she got the job, I was super excited, but she’s just very high energy and very about team chemistry and how team chemistry can transfer to the field and how important it is,” Smith said. “We need a lot of unity and she brings that extra push.”