Four years ago, Indiana senior midfielder Mary Kate Kesler was a freshman stepping onto campus for the first time. Now, she is one of a few upperclassmen leading the way for Indiana field hockey.
Kesler — Indiana’s leading goal scorer in 2020 — enters her senior campaign at Indiana looking to leave a legacy of her own.
Kesler knew what Hoosier pride looked and felt like all her life. Both of her parents attended Indiana and she was raised with cream and crimson, so when she received an offer from Indiana, it was a perfect match.
“I grew up cheering for Indiana, so when I had the opportunity, I knew I had to go,” Kesler said. “The facilities, the athletic department and the school in general is unmatched. The opportunity to play in the Big Ten at such a high level was also a deciding factor.”
Kesler’s freshman season was underwhelming — the Hoosiers ended the season with a 4-13 — but Kesler was able to take some positives away from the down year.
“It was a tough season — we didn't see a lot of success in our record,” Kesler said. “I was also playing a new position that I wasn’t used to which was hard. But I also had fun and learned a lot about playing in college and what it took to be a good teammate.”
Kesler said the support system she had in her first year, which came from the upperclassmen that took Kesler under their wing, helped her navigate the ups and downs of college athletics.
Former teammates Ciara Girouard and Sachi Ananias were two upperclassmen that she looked up to and helped show Kesler what it took to be a good teammate and leader.
“I looked up to (Girouard) a lot — she was a really hard worker and she has a really clear idea of who she is as a person, which I admire,” Kesler said, “As a player, I love (Ananias) a lot. She is very knowledgeable about the game and she is another person like (Girouard) that I look up to.”
Kesler looks to be a leader for her team this season, but it won't be the first time she’s taken on that role.
Kesler, the oldest child two in her family, said being an older sister is similar to being the upperclassmen to the sophomores and freshmen on the team. She said in the same way she tried to lead her sister, she wants to set an example for her younger teammates
“Although this might be my last season, I want to leave the freshman with a lot to take forward in the program and show them how much the program means to us,” Kesler said.
Kesler said she’s seen a lot of improvement in her game in her four years as a Hoosier, but none bigger than her confidence. She said in her freshman year at Indiana she let the intimidation of playing in the Big Ten get to her.
“Playing a new position my freshman year, I didn't embrace the risk and difference from what I was used to,” Kesler said. “This year as a senior, I know I have a clear sense of who I am as a player.”
With the 2021 season already underway, Kesler looks to continue to guide the underclassmen on the team and capitalize on the moment. With a 3-1 record as of Sept. 5, the Hoosiers are off to their best start to a season since 2014.