Three Sports? For Standout Athlete Kate Pistel Play is Nonstop

 

Kate Pistel ’13 played three sports in high school, so playing varsity soccer, squash, and lacrosse throughout her time at Colby is no big deal to her. But not everyone sees it that way.

By Matt DeFilippo
Photography by Dustin Satloff ’15
 

Colby/AmherstKate Pistel ’13 played three sports in high school, so playing varsity soccer, squash, and lacrosse throughout her time at Colby isno big deal to her. But not everyone sees it that way.

"I feel like a lot of people would be able to do it," Pistel said. "It's just they're not as crazy as me maybe? I don't know. "

Pistel not only plays three very different sports, she's a standout: a two-time All-American midfielder in lacrosse Colby’s number-one squash player and an All-NESCAC squash player since sophomore year, and a tri-captain defensive back on the soccer team. 

Not since Wendy Bonner ’05, who starred in field hockey, basketball, and softball from 2001 to 2005, has Colby had such a talented athlete play three unrelated sports. "They're built similarly," said Harold Alfond Director of Athletic Marcella Zalot. "They're both five-ten, five-eleven, physically strong. They both avoided major injuries, which is … in some ways, pretty incredible."

Pistel has been playing soccer since kindergarten and squash and lacrosse since sixth grade, when she tagged along while her father played squash with his friends on lunch breaks.

"I think as soon as I started playing [each the three sports], I fell in love with all of them, and I couldn't just pick one," she said. "I couldn't imagine quitting one of them to focus on something else. I like the variety, too, throughout the year, of not just focusing on one thing."

At times, even as a senior, Pistel gets subtle hints about how great she could be if she made the decision to focus on a single sport. “All the time,” she said. But being a multisport athlete is part of what pushed her toward Colby.

"Even some colleges that I went to visit," Pistel said, "they were like, 'Well, maybe you should just play one sport if you come here.' I was like, 'OK, I'm not going to go there then.' It was never in the cards for me."

"The cool thing about her, is she's focused on what she's doing at that time," said Karen McCrate Henning, who coaches Pistel in lacrosse and is an assistant soccer coach. "Every season, she is going a hundred percent to that sport.

"I think if she had concentrated on one sport, she probably would have ended up at a Division I school. She's a Division I athlete. I think Colby allowed her to play three sports that she loved and excel at those three sports."

Indeed, rather than complaining about Pistel playing three sports, her coaches embrace it.

"Kate is probably one of the fittest squash players that Colby has ever seen," squash coach Sakhi Khan said. "I think she's always been an icon for the rest of the squash players, because they're amazed that she plays three sports. What she's doing is keeping herself active. Never have I seen a day when she had low energy—which is just incredible."

With an independent major in human development, Pistel also managed to enjoy three disciplines in her studies: sociology, psychology, and education. She also works with students in area schools and at the city’s teen center. Always being in a varsity season has made her a disciplined student. “I knew I had to plan my time wisely,” she said.

In the end, the pieces all fit for Pistel. Staying in shape for soccer helps her with all the running she has to do for lacrosse. The quickness she hones and develops on the squash court may help her beat a lacrosse defender two months later.

There's also the matter of being a natural left-hander. While it's neither good nor bad for her in soccer, she believes it's an asset in squash and lacrosse. "Some players in squash don't even realize that I'm lefty for a little bit and hit to my forehand the whole time," Pistel said.

That deflection of talk about her skills is classic Pistel. In both lacrosse and squash, she claims she is far from the most skilled player on the team, painting a picture where she’s flailing about and using her quickness and athletic ability to compensate. Yet she's made first-team All-NESCAC in both sports in each of the last two seasons, and she's a two-time All-American in lacrosse.

Said Khan, "She is already probably the best squash women's player I've seen since I've been here—in twelve seasons."

"She's just gifted athletically," Zalot said. "She makes it look pretty easy in all three sports, which all the great ones do."

And just like that, it will end this spring. Pistel has already played her last soccer game, and the last squash and lacrosse games weren't far away.

"I think about it almost every day," Pistel said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm hoping to work at a prep school after I graduate, and work in admissions and coach. So I'm hoping that the coaching will kind of fill that void."

 
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