Ola Kwasniewski readily admits diving is her main sport. But Lawrence High coach Megan Errico is certainly happy Kwasniewski enjoys dabbling in field hockey; especially since she “dabbles” better than a lot of players who give it their full attention.
“I think this is her best sport, but she broke two (school) records last year as a diver and she dives for a club team as well,” Errico said of her senior midfielder. “She’s a vital position on our corners and as a midfielder she connects very well with Talia (Schenck) in terms of her passing and receiving. She could literally play any position. I could put her at sweeper, and she would dominate.”
Kwasniewski will be a key figure on a veteran Cardinal team coming off a 10-9 season. Lawrence returns record-setting sophomore Schenck, who had 39 goals and five assists last year. Also back are nine other regulars, including seniors Nicole Seeburger, Jenna Cahill, Carlie Brummel, Steph Meda and goalie Maddie Wingerter, along with juniors Ashley Belgrave, Brooke Roslon, Olivia Szela and Haley Adamczak.
“We didn’t lose anyone so we we’re pretty excited to start the season since we were all together last year,” Kwasniewski said. “We know how to play with each other. I love this team, it’s the best team we’ve had. I love Lawrence. It’s really fun this year because it’s my last year.”
Errico shares her midfielder’s excitement.
“It’s definitely the most experienced and loaded team we’ve had,” said Errico, now in her seventh year as head coach. “We’ve definitely been working on building the program. Since OG (assistant Katie O’Gorman) and I started together five years ago, we’ve come a long way.
“I’m just very excited. We have seniors who have been playing together since middle school. All six seniors have been playing since freshman year. When I was JV coach and doing rec field hockey in the winter, Nicole Seeburger and Jenna Cahill played for me when they were really little. So it’s exciting to see them finally at the level of where we are.”
That excitement could be seen over the summer, when the Cardinals attended Pennington and Rider summer camps while also working out with Errico.
“They worked hard this summer,” the coach said. “I’m really looking forward to it. Maddie Wingerter is our goalie, we also have a sophomore and a new freshman goalie, so that’s the first time we ever had depth at that position. That’s exciting.”
Helping to bring it all together is Kwasniewski, who is not big on statistics but huge on doing what it takes to win. Already a diver, she added field hockey to her activities when a friend talked her into going out for the middle school team in seventh grade. She loved it right away despite the constant whistles that seemingly baffle every newcomer.
“At first I was like ‘Wha…what? I don’t know what’s going on…but I’ll just go with it,’” she said. “I really loved it.”
During her freshman year, Kwasniewski showed some talent, but not enough confidence to make varsity right away.
“She came out as a freshman, didn’t have very much experience, was really quiet and timid but has become one of our best players,” Errico said. “Freshman year, we pulled her up. She would have started but she was very quiet. The biggest thing about her that’s amazed me is she really found her voice. She’s become a leader and she can command the field, where freshman year I don’t know if I ever heard her speak. So I’m just really proud of her for that.”
Ola felt it was just a matter of getting acclimated.
“I was nervous with all the upperclassmen and seniors,” she said. “Everyone usually is. But I became friends with all of them and opened up a little bit.”
That made all the difference. When Kwasniewski returned as a sophomore, she earned the starting right midfield spot and has been there ever since; although she does go all over the field and will often switch with the left midfielder.
Her value takes on many levels but one of her best attributes is being able to bring the ball up the sideline.
“When we lost Olivia Corso, who was really good at bringing it up the right, Ola was able to take that position,” Errico said. “In field hockey, you use the sidelines as an advantage for you. Now we use her on the left side. Last year, we had her mostly on the left. So she’s interchangeable. We really cut out a center-mid last year, and Ola and whoever was on the other side would just switch back and forth to support Talia, and they’ve been able to connect.”
Much of it has to do with Kwasniewski’s versatility.
“I usually switch left or right, sometimes I play middle, it really depends on where the ball goes,” she said. “I’m more of a dribble and pass person. I’m just trying to pass it to Talia or whoever. Everyone on the team is great. All the forwards are really good.”
Having such skills to facilitate comes from being able to keep the ball one one’s stick.
“She’s pretty incredible,” Errico said. “Her stickwork is absolutely incredible. She plays with poise and precision. And she’s really developed from not speaking and only being able to pass the ball 10 yards; to somebody who can flick and reverse shot and pass from the field with her drives. Her and Talia are going to definitely be a force to be reckoned with this year.”
Kwasniewski learned her skills at the USA Futures Camp, which she attended during her freshman year.
“Futures really got me started, it helped a lot,” she said. “I just worked on my stick skills a lot, dribbled through cones every day and just got better at it.”
Kwasniewski was planning on going to Princeton’s field hockey camp, but she had too many people urging her to focus on diving, since that is what she wants to do in college. Kwasniewski broke the Cardinals six-dive and 11-dive records, and then broke her own six-dive record. She is in the process of deciding where to go next year.
“I do field hockey in the fall, and if I have time, I’ll do some diving,” she said. “After field hockey ends, I focus mainly on diving. But I love field hockey. I love playing with my teammates, just dribbling and scoring. It’s so much fun.”
When she’s not playing sports, Kwasniewski belongs to Lawrence’s International Alliance, along with Operation Smile, which helps children with cleft palates. It’s only fitting Kwasniewski is in the latter club, since her zeal to play her “other” sport makes her teammates and Errico smile.