BOONE, N.C. — A pair of Appalachian State seniors are using the game and competition of field hockey as a launching pad to achieve future success.
Seniors Keighly Adams and Sarah Heiss have been part of the App State program throughout major transitions over the past four years. When head coach Meghan Dawson took over in 2015, the field hockey program was without a conference.
The Mountaineers joined a league in 2017, becoming a member of the Mid-American Conference. Last season, both Adams and Heiss helped the Mountaineers reach the semifinals of the MAC Tournament in just their first year of conference eligibility.
“They came in my first year, and they had already committed to the previous coach,” Dawson said. “So, they took a leap of faith to keep their commitment and believe in me and what we were going to do to change it. We’ve had hard moments over those times, and it hasn’t been easy, even in the small improvements. I can honestly say that from day one to now, they’ve given everything they have to the program, and that’s the most that you can ask of any student-athlete.”
Adams, a midfielder and defender from Dillsburg, Pa., started all 17 games her freshman season and has played in at least 14 games every season. This year, Adams has played and started in 17 games, totaling 1,162 minutes on Appalachian’s back line.
“More than people think, on-field lessons translate to off-field (lessons),” Adams said. “You have to work hard. You have to have a strong mentality, and things aren’t always going to go your way. You’re going to try everything you can and still might lose, so you have to just keep going.”
Off the field, Adams earned a spot on the Dean’s List as recently as the Spring 2018 semester.. When her field hockey career comes to a close, she strives to get accepted into an accelerated nursing program, hoping to one day become a nurse practitioner within the medical field.
“I have a little brother, who just turned 9, and he had a lot of medical issues growing up when he was a baby,” Adams said. “We’re 12 years apart, so I was like his second mom. For me, I was around it a lot in the hospital and got to see a lot of it. That’s what made me want to join the medical field.”
In an effort to gain experience for her future career, Adams traveled to Uganda this past summer for three weeks with Appalachian’s public health program. She learned more about the local culture and worked in a village to help assess the public health needs.
“I’m definitely going to miss field hockey, and it’s going to be really weird not being out here every day,” Adams said. “For me, I’m not necessarily going to remember the score of games or the things that happen in the games, but the relationships that I have built with my teammates and the memories that we’ve made.”
Heiss, a senior defender and midfielder from Fairfax Station, Va., played in 13 games and was named to the NFHCA National Academic Squad during her freshman season. She also made 12 game appearances as a sophomore and 10 as a junior. Heiss has played in 39 games and accounted for 1,005 minutes of action throughout her four-year career at Appalachian.
Heiss said one of her favorite on-field experiences at Appalachian was making the MAC Tournament in App State’s first year in the conference. The Mountaineers won three of their final four conference matchups to earn a postseason spot.
“Coming off of our first two years here not having a conference, not having a tournament to go to, and showing up last year, it was an amazing experience,” Heiss said. “I don’t think that either of us expected that we would even be in a conference by the time we were done.”
In the future, Heiss plans on attending pharmacy school to earn her doctorate and start a career in drug development and research. She has spent her past two summers working in Appalachian’s biochemistry lab with the intentions of helping eliminate solar radiation and improving climate control.
“I just really have a big passion for the sciences, and I didn’t realize that until about my sophomore year,” Heiss said. “The more that I just got into chemistry and into my research over the past couple summers, I really appreciated the research aspect of the science community.”
The Mountaineers, who finished 2018 with an overall record of 5-13 and a 1-5 mark in conference play, look to make a run in the MAC Tournament. The tournament hosted by Miami (Ohio) in Oxford begins Wednesday, when App State will battle Central Michigan. The Black and Gold defeated Central Michigan 5-1 earlier this season.