Mary Kate Stefanowicz ’22 (No. 10) celebrates after her game-winning goal during overtime in spring’s NCAA quarterfinal
Photo: Marc Hagemeier
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Mary Kate Stefanowicz ’22 (No. 10) celebrates after her game-winning goal during overtime in spring’s NCAA quarterfinal. This fall, she was named to the All-Patriot League First Team.

Expecting the Unexpected

by Andrew Faught
That the women’s field hockey team advanced to the 2021 NCAA tournament in April can best be summed up in a word: improbable.

Not only did the squad start the season 0-3, but five players were sidelined for quarantine during the COVID-abbreviated, six-game regular-season campaign.

“It was disheartening and really hard to push through,” says midfielder and tournament star Mary Kate “MK” Stefanowicz ’22, who scored both Bison goals — one with less than 30 seconds remaining in double overtime — in a 2-1 opening-round victory over favored and undefeated Virginia Commonwealth. Bucknell went on to fall to second-seed Michigan in the quarterfinals.

“COVID really showed us that we had to expect the unexpected,” Stefanowicz says. “Our motto became, ‘Let’s just have fun.’ We created a really good team culture through that.”

Stefanowicz, a civil engineering major from Lansdale, Pa., took to heart the team’s can-do spirit. “Just being able to play last spring, when the world was so crazy and hectic, was such an exciting and great thing,” she says.

Field hockey runs in Stefanowicz’s blood. Her sister, Kelly ’13, played the sport for Bucknell, and her mother, Mary Beth Morrissey Stefanowicz ’88, is a former Bison rower who traded her water-loving ways to coach the fast-paced game in suburban Philadelphia. MK considers her passing game to be her strong suit, despite her performance as a tournament scoring machine.

“I have good vision on the field and can see passes that are open,” she says. “And I’m a very competitive person.”

The fall 2021 season, which ran from August to November, featured its share of ups and downs. The team finished 8-10 and ended its season with a loss to Lafayette in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament.

Despite her family’s Bucknell lineage, Stefanowicz didn’t initially plan to attend the University. Then she visited as a high school junior and immediately fell in love with the campus — and the field hockey team.

“The team culture was amazing,” she says. “That convinced me to come here, but academics also was a huge component. At a couple of other schools I was looking at, I wouldn’t have been able to study civil engineering. I’m very lucky that my mom pushed me to look here.”

While many young field hockey players grow up dreaming of Olympics competition (American women hold a single medal in the sport, a bronze from the 1984 Los Angeles games, and didn’t qualify for Tokyo), Stefanowicz’s playing days are now over.

She’s focusing on her engineering career. After completing internships in construction and land development, Stefanowicz is weighing whether she wants to pursue graduate studies.

Her experiences on the field have put her in good stead moving forward.

“I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I have learned and the relationships I have built through Bucknell field hockey,” Stefanowicz says. “Being a part of this team has been the most rewarding yet challenging aspect of my college experience. So much of the last four years has been unexpected, but I gained resiliency that will carry me through the rest of my life.”

Instant Replay

Greatest career highlight
“Scoring my first two collegiate goals in the NCAA first-round victory over VCU last year.”
Balancing field hockey and studies
“Time management is key. It’s so important to stay focused and organized with your schedule, and use your free time wisely.”
Secrets to success
Stefanowicz advises student-athletes to “find a good support system. I owe an immense amount of my success to my professors, team and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Lessons Learned on the Field that Spill Into the Classroom

“Mental toughness and perseverance are so important to accomplish your goals. The work you put in determines your outcome.”