Niezgoda back at CR as field hockey coach

CAMDEN — Lauren Niezgoda wasn’t really interested in field hockey.

Not when she was a kid, anyway.

She was in fifth grade when her mom, Brandi, talked her into going to a one-day camp for the sport.

“I was just kind of nervous about meeting new people,” Niezgoda recalled. “I didn’t really want to go. But I ended up going to the camp and ended up loving it.”

By the time the Caesar Rodney High grad finished her career at Wesley College, she realized she still hadn’t gotten enough of field hockey.

That’s how now she finds herself as the new head coach at CR. The 25-year-old Postlethwait Middle School teacher was hired at her alma mater over the winter.

Niezgoda was a grad assistant coach at Wesley before coaching the Riders’ junior varsity last fall.

A team captain and first-team All-Henlopen Conference selection at CR, she was a four-year starter at midfielder for the Wolverines.

The idea of leaving the sport behind as a player wasn’t easy for Niezgoda. She still plays in the City of Dover’s adult leagues in the summer.

“I don’t know, there was just something about it I fell in love with,” she said. “It was tough (when her college career ended). It was a reality check. After high school, I knew I was going to college and still playing so it didn’t really hit me as much as my last game in college.

“I’m like, ‘OK, what am I supposed to do with my life now? Sports is my life.’”

Niezgoda started coaching at Wesley while she was earning her masters in sports leadership. She quickly realized that coaching wasn’t a bad replacement for playing.

“I found myself on the sidelines getting super excited, getting super nervous for them,” Niezgoda said about the players. “I still had the same emotions, the same drive.

“I never thought I’d be back (at CR),” she added. “But I’m so gracious to be back. I’m definitely excited to see where I can take the program.”

It’s been a tough stretch for the Riders, who finished 4-10-1 in the fall — their third four-win season in the last four seasons. CR hasn’t made the DIAA state tournament or had a winning season since 2013, when it went 10-6.

That was the year after Niezgoda graduated.

Niezgoda knows she faces a big challenge. But she also thinks the players are excited to have a familiar coach in charge.

“I broke the news to them a couple weeks back just so they could hear it from me,” said Niezgoda, “I’m definitely ready for the competitive aspect.”