After a 12-6 record and their first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament appearance since reinstatement in 2007, the Slippery Rock women’s lacrosse team will be under new management this upcoming spring.
Previous coach Emily Hopkins coached The Rock for 10 years, including 2017’s year of success
“Coach Hopkins got us to a nice place in our program.” SRU Athletic Director Paul Lueken said. “I appreciate everything she did here.”
However, after having her contract expire following last season, The Rock decided to go in a different direction, and conducted a coaching search.
“We did a national search. Out of a pool of applicants, we had three highly qualified finalists. All three very different in terms of background, personality and coaching style,” Lueken said. Out of those three, Kelsey Van Alstyne, previously a coach at Morisville College, stood out for a multitude of reasons.
“Her progression through her career in terms of where she was and what she has accomplished, especially at her last school and the success she had there was awesome,” Lueken said. “Her personality really fit, she had what we were looking for and what we need to move forward in lacrosse. She really was the type of candidate we were looking for. I think she’s going to do great things. The student athletes liked her the best, and we like that. Since she’s been on campus, everybody she has met with has been really impressed with how she handles business. We’re really excited. We have an assistant joining her Tuesday, and more information on that will come out on Rock Athletics.”
Van Alstyne comes from a successful history as both a lacrosse coach and strength and conditioning coach, a quality that Lueken described as “one of the many talents that she has.” Van Alstyne previously led the Morisville Mustangs to two NCAA playoff appearances in three years, and also garnered the program their first-ever conference title. Making the transition from the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) to the PSAC is not an easy one, but one that Van Alstyne felt was right.
“I was a product of the PSAC, having graduated from Bloomsburg and previously going to West Chester.” Van Alstyne said. “I loved my time in DIII, but having experienced how great Division II is, when I saw the opening I knew it was something I wanted to look into. Not only because of the LAX program but the school itself. The majors offered here are huge for recruiting, with exercise science and all of the other programs we have. I saw that they had a pretty successful season last year and who was returning and thought it was a great opportunity to advance my career and go to the next level.”
Van Alstyne’s previously mentioned strength and conditioning background will follow her to SRU, but not in the same capacity. “I’m really excited to use my strength and conditioning experience with my team. We’re going to be in the weight room and conditioning, so that piece is going to remain the same.” Van Alstyne said, who also talked about how her full-time devotion to the LAX team will be a breath of fresh air for her.
“I think it’s definitely going to benefit the time with my team more. It’s a lot to juggle, to try to make sure all of the student athletes are getting this great experience. Being able to focus solely on women’s LAX is something that was also very appealing to me when looking at this position.
Also knowing that I will have a full-time assistant, I can really dive into the LAX prospect with just a side of strength and conditioning. I loved that, and I’m glad that I can still do it in some facet.”
With a new coach will always come change, which Van Alstyne was excited to face the prospect of.
“I think change is great, at any aspect. There are things that could change to overcome adversity, and things can change in the split second of a game. I plan on implementing my philosophy I’ve developed in the previous six years of coaching. I think as long as the buy in is there, which it seems like it is, we can take it to the next level because the rest of the conference knows what SRU has traditionally done and what they can do to beat that, but they don’t know what me and my staff are going to implement, in terms of X’s and O’s. That will give us an advantage. The things we do off of the field, like strength and conditioning, focus on academics, the team mindset and culture. So my goal is to change all of those things and help bring them to the next level.”
Both Van Alstyne and Lueken were confident in a bright future for Slippery Rock LAX.
“I’m pretty confident I will help us translate to more success on the field. Theres 13 freshman, its going to be a brand new team, and I think that’s awesome.” Van Alstyne said, who was echoed by Lueken.
“I believe we are poised to do some special things.”