Sports

Five years of waiting

Goalkeeper Haley Mitchell is starting for the first time in her fifth year with the program.

Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Haley Mitchell wasn’t always sure she would finish her college field hockey career as an Owl.

As a backup for her first four years at Temple, the Stevens, Pennsylvania native played in 25 games from 2011-14 and felt under-utilized in her role.

“During the past four years, [transferring] has crossed my mind,” Mitchell said. “Just because I felt like I could offer more to a team than cheering on a sideline. I know that it is also an important part of being on a team, and the girls on the team were great. I love every girl on this team, so I really stayed around for them.”

In addition to her teammates, Mitchell said the length and difficulty of the transfer process and a “rare” interest in transfer goalkeepers convinced her to stay in North Philadelphia.

For Mitchell, who started one game and played in eight others in 2011, the playing time she received as a freshman wasn’t what she anticipated when she signed her letter of intent.

“My expectations and what I was told coming in was whoever plays better during the week starts,” Mitchell said. “That’s what was said. … I definitely think that I should’ve had more opportunity than I did.”

Throughout her career, Mitchell played behind 2014 All-Big East first team goalie and four-year starter Lizzy Millen, whose 2014 save percentage of 77. 3 was No. 8 in Division I.

“Lizzy is a great goalie, there’s no taking that from her, but I definitely think that I should’ve had more opportunity than I did,” Mitchell said. “I mean we worked really well together, and again, she is a great goalie and definitely deserved to play as well, but I think I was right up there with her.”

After starting one game during her first two seasons on the squad behind Millen, Mitchell was redshirted in 2013. The following season, Mitchell backed up Millen again.

After the 2014 Longstreth/National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team goalie graduated last spring, Mitchell was in line to fill the open void.

“I think with the opportunities that have been before her with Lizzy Millen obviously [starting], she saw the writing on the wall,” coach Marybeth Freeman said. “She is really embracing this season as her final season and has made it an impactful one thus far.”

In 2015, Mitchell has 64 saves, a 65.3 save percentage, and a 5.8 saves per game average, which ranks No. 19 in Division I.

“I see her as a great role model as a player as a whole,” senior backer Alyssa Hughes said. “But individually, I think she’s really smart on her feet, I think she has really quick feet, and I think that she makes really good decisions based on the opponent and how they’re coming toward her.”

Although she may not have had as much success as she wanted early on, Mitchell said her decision to play field hockey at Temple was the most important things she has done.

“Playing five years of a Division I sport is probably my biggest accomplishment,” Mitchell said. “I mean, four years is hard enough, and then tacking on another for only one year of playing, but I have had fun all five years. Even though we’re in a little bit of a rough patch right now, it’s still worth it. … It’s kind of a full circle as I like to describe it.”

Matt Cockayne can be reached at matthew.cockayne@temple.edu or on Twitter @MattCockayne55.

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