Transferring from a Division-I school to a Division-II school obviously comes with its differences–especially when it’s from Rutgers to Lock Haven.
Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. is home to 40,000-plus students. Lock Haven is home to a mere 5,000. Rutgers in New Brunswick has a train station. People in Lock Haven may be hard-pressed to know what an electric train is.
Lock Haven junior lacrosse player Rachel Engler made that transition from Rutgers to Lock Haven after her sophomore season at Rutgers, a season in which Rutgers finished 2-16 overall. Lock Haven may be small, but it is the right fit for Engler.
“I think it has been such a positive experience so far,” said Engler. “It was a big transition going to a big school with over 40,000 kids and then coming here to a tight-knit university.”
On the field, Engler has fit the mold perfectly of a team looking to get over the hump after falling in the Division-II National Championship Game in each of the past two years.
Engler has scored 32 goals through nine games this season, putting her first on the team in goals and points. Her 32 goals are currently second in the PSAC, trailing Emily Fagan from Shippensburg by only one goal.
She has scored four or more goals in five games already this season, including four games with five goals.
“I fit better here both academically and socially” Engler said. “I like the ability to have smaller friend groups and having my best friends as teammates.”
While moving through the transferring process, Lock Haven would have perhaps been out of the question had it not been for Engler’s high school coach at Boyertown, who is friends with former Lock Haven lacrosse coach Kristen Selvage.
“I was looking to transfer to a Division-I school, but it’s hard to transfer D-I to D-I if you don’t have a lot of film or playing time,” said Engler. “So my high school coach said ‘why don’t you check out D-II’ and suggested Lock Haven, and everything truly fell into place so perfectly.”
However, some advice from a former high school coach wasn’t the only selling point with Lock Haven.
“I really enjoy the outdoors, and my hometown is really small like Lock Haven. This helped me in the transition because I am one of the biggest homebodies you will ever meet and it’s truly a home away from home for me.”
Lock Haven has gotten out to an early 8-1 start to the 2016 season with a relatively young team. Each season, for any team, brings a new challenge of how a team will mesh together and perform as a unit. Fortunately for Engler, especially as a transfer, she was able to click with her teammates right off the bat.
Junior Shannon Bissnette and sophomore Hayley Kilian lead Lock Haven in assists with 21 and 19, respectively.
“The team knows me as a cutter, and they have been looking for me inside,” said Engler. “It’s actually so incredible how fast I clicked with the feeders and how fast they clicked with me and the rest of the team. Bizz and Killa are such talented feeders and everyday at practice they are constantly making me a better player with their lacrosse IQ.”
Lock Haven is coming off their first loss of the season, an 8-7 defeat at East Stroudsburg on Tuesday. However, there is always room for improvement.
“There is always room to improve, and we took our practices and executed what Coach wanted, and she wanted us to play a full 60 minute game of lacrosse,” said Engler after Lock Haven’s 18-7 win over Shippensburg last week. “We executed what she wanted and it showed by the score.”
While Lock Haven may not have an Amtrak station, a 52,000 seat football stadium or a Grill Shop like in Engler’s hometown of Boyertown, the lacrosse playing level remains high.
With only eight games left to play in the regular season, making it to Denver for the Final Four remains the ultimate goal for this year’s team.
Lock Haven will host Indiana (Pa.) on Saturday at 1p.m. at Charlotte Smith Field.