Assistant is ‘one of the best’ indoor field hockey players

Katie Gerzabek is playing in the Indoor Pan American Cup in Guyana this week.

Assistant coach Katie Gerzabek passes to associate coach Roz Ellis while the team warms up before Friday’s loss to Villanova at Howarth Field. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When University of Maryland coach Missy Meharg saw Katie Gerzabek play high school and club field hockey, she knew Gerzabek had the “it factor.”

In her four-year career for the Terrapins from 2011-14, Gerzabek recorded 50 assists, which is tied for fifth in program history. Her competitive nature is “ruthless,” Meharg said.

Gerzabek is now an assistant coach for Temple, but her duties haven’t  prevented her from continuing her playing career. She is one of 12 players selected to represent the United States at the Indoor Pan American Cup in Georgetown, Guyana. The six-day tournament features teams from Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay and began on Monday. The winner qualifies for the International Hockey Federation Indoor World Cup in Germany in February 2018.

Gerzabek played in the U.S.’s tournament-opening 7-2 win against Trinidad and Tobago on Monday.

“She’s one of the best indoor field hockey players in the world,” Meharg said.

This is not the first time that Gerzabek has represented the U.S. in international competition. Before she played for Maryland, Gerzabek played for the U.S.’s under-17 team in Uruguay. During her sophomore season with the Terrapins in 2012, she left the team for about two weeks to play in the under-21 Junior Pan Am Games in Mexico. Gerzabek scored a goal in the competition to help Team USA win a bronze medal.

She also competed for the U.S. in the Junior World Cup in Germany in 2013 on the under-21 team.

“It’s been great, playing for the junior international teams in college,” Gerzabek said. “So I’ve played abroad, and I know what to expect. But every time I get selected to play for Team USA, it is a great honor to represent my country, to compete against some of the best players in the world, it’s just exciting.”

“Katie’s passion to compete and represent the USA in the Pan American Indoor Championships is incredibly strong and admirable,” Temple coach Marybeth Freeman said in a team statement. “Her commitment to the USA indoor program has remained strong and present over the years, and we’re proud of how Katie has represented herself and our Temple program on the national and global stages.”

Gerzabek’s decorated college career started as soon as she arrived in College Park, Maryland. She started all 23 games as a freshman in 2011 and finished second on the team in goals with 17 and second in points with 48.

Her last goal that season came with less than five minutes left in the Division I title game. Gerzabek scored the first goal to help Maryland make up a two-goal deficit and come back to beat the University of North Carolina, 3-2, in overtime. Meharg knew she had someone special on her team.

“While she was here, she always set the standard for her teammates on how to work and compete,” Meharg said. “And on the field, she just had an amazing tactical awareness and hand speed that was unmatched by anyone on the team.”

Gerzabek is now using her tactical awareness to help the Owls after joining the program in June 2015.

She comes from a family of coaches. Her mother, Jackie Gerzabek, is the assistant field hockey coach at Katie Gerzabek’s alma mater — the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Katie Gerzabek said she initially struggled with being completely focused on her responsibilities at Temple while maintaining playing shape. Katie Gerzabek isn’t the first player to split her time between coaching and playing internationally. Meharg played for Team USA during her early years as a coach at Maryland in the 1980s, so she knows what Gerzabek is going through.

“[Katie] has always been very bright and a quick learner,” Meharg said. “She is very disciplined, and you have to be to handle both the workload of being a coach and being a player.”

“It’s challenging balancing coaching and playing,” Katie Gerzabek said. “I always have to refocus myself wherever I am. If I’m at Temple, I need to think like a coach and be focused on making the team better. When I’m playing, I need to be focused on our game plan as a team. It’s a lot, but I love the challenge.”

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