When she showed up for her first day of lacrosse practice, 11-year-old Kat Henselder had finally caved to her father, a former lacrosse goaltender. But she wasn’t there because of him – she was there because her brother had recently succumbed to the same plea, and like most siblings, Henselder wanted to follow him.
What Henselder found that day was intrigue for the crease and an enduring desire to feel the adrenaline it had to offer. It was the one place on the pitch where she could be all by herself, doing something no one else on the pitch could do: protect her net.
“My coach was walking around the pitch explaining what the crease (was) and said, ‘No one is allowed in the crease, (only) the goalkeeper can be in the crease,’ and I was really determined to be allowed in the crease. I was immediately drawn to that,” Henselder said.
Although Henselder came from a lacrosse family, it wasn’t his first favorite sport. Growing up, she preferred a basketball to a goalie helmet. Goal is the only place Henselder should be these days, as teammate junior midfielder Sophia Iaccino has said.
“She’s really good at her job as a goalkeeper, but if I put any other sport ahead of her, it’s a bit brutal to watch,” Iaccino said with a laugh. “We are improving it more and more in basketball. So it’s a start.
Iaccino and Henselder have been roommates since last year, and Iaccino described his goalkeeper as calm but “hilarious”.
“It’s another side of her that you see living with her,” Iaccino said. “She studies a lot, but when she’s not studying, she’s a beast at Fortnite. And she’s still a great person to live with and have by your side.
When she’s not jumping off the Battle Bus, dealing with fire is what Henselder does best. So far this season, Henselder has seen 203 shots, allowing only 106 goals. That puts it at a savings percentage of around 48%, the third highest in MAAC.
The junior health sciences major said her favorite part of lacrosse — especially goaltending — is the impact she can have on her team, as well as the “adrenaline rush” that comes with the facing a shot.
Off the field, Henselder’s game preparation does not stop. When she has a frustrating practice or wants to sharpen her reflexes, she turns to juggling to perfect her hand-eye coordination. Like Henselder’s introduction to lacrosse, his father’s pursuit sparked his juggling career.
“My dad used to say, ‘All goalies know how to juggle, (you) have to learn it,'” Henselder said. “I was just like, ‘That’s just silly,’ and then I got to eighth or ninth grade and he said, ‘Anyone can juggle, and you’re the only goalie who can’t in the game. ‘team’, so that’s when I sat down to learn.
When Henselder finally gave in, she found that juggling isn’t as hard as she thought — just a five-minute, three-day YouTube video. Perhaps it’s a testament to Henselder’s “inflexible attitude,” as head coach Tanya Kotowicz described it.
“I think more than anything his focus has been on how to improve unity,” Kotowicz said. “And that just improved his own game, which is great.”
Kotowicz said Henselder is the “hub of our defense” and “more talented than she thinks”.
“She’s the anchor,” Kotowicz said. “(She) continues to bring a little more every day, so obviously we’re relying on her a lot.”
In addition to playing basketball growing up, Henselder ran cross country and winter track in high school between lacrosse seasons. It was also in high school that Henselder decided to play lacrosse at the college level due to his experience with his traveling team.
“My team was tight-knit and I knew that in college I could have a similar experience with girls who all shared similar passions who would become my family,” Henselder said.
When she began her college search, Henselder said she became interested in Quinnipiac after speaking with Kotowicz during the recruiting process.
“I really liked how she saw the team (and) how she was looking to change the program, and I really wanted to be a part of that,” Henselder said.
Although this is her first normal season as a junior due to the pandemic, Henselder’s strong bond with her team has given her a hugely positive college experience.
“Some people go to college and play sports, and they hate going to work out every day,” Henselder said. “That’s really the difference here — everyone really appreciates it. We are such a close-knit team, we are always together. It’s such a great environment.