Though she’s shorter than a typical field hockey goalie, Robbinsville’s Katie Bohall stands tall in the net for the Ravens. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

When folks speculate on what makes a good field hockey goalie, thoughts turn to tall, rangy physique that cover a large swath of the goal, quick reflexes and fierce concentration. But for Katie Bohall, it all starts with the equipment.

After paying her dues for three years on the JV team and as varsity back-up, the Robbinsville High senior claimed the starting job this season and is excelling. But what people don’t understand is, before she even started blocking shots, she had to deal with the leg pads, chest protector and mask. In essence, Bohall had to work out in the equipment before she could work out in the goal.

“I was confused wearing all the equipment but I got used to it,” Bohall said. “I run a lot in my equipment until I get myself comfortable in it. It’s stiff if you’re not athletic in it. My goal is to run a mile in the pads someday.”

It doesn’t help that she only stands 4-feet, 11-inches tall.

“They don’t make size small equipment,” Bohall said. “I’m wearing stuff for goalies that are 5-6, 5-8. For me it’s almost uncomfortable naturally because everything goes higher on me and it’s bigger and doesn’t fit right. I definitely have to work against that and get more comfortable than most do.”

While that might be concerning for some lazier girls, it’s a welcome way of life for Bohall.

“Her work ethic is constant,” coach Jennamarie Colicchia said. “She just doesn’t expect things to come to her. She goes and gets it.”

Just as she works to break in her equipment, Bohall works to prepare for the grind of a season. She wakes up at 5 a.m. and hits the gym. School starts at 7:30, then it’s another run at 12:30 and again right after school. If she misses a workout or a run early in the day, Katie makes it up after practice. In four years, she has dropped two-and-half minutes off her mile time.

“I love working out and I like to see the direct change from when I go to the gym and then I put on my pads and see I’m kicking stronger,” Bohall said. “I do specific workouts that I know when I put on my equipment it’s gonna help me be so much better after this.”

All that energy has culminated in a senior year that leave Colicchia shaking her head in admiration. In the Ravens 4-3 start, Bohall had recorded shutouts in all four victories and allowed just one goal in two of the losses. Her goals against average was 0.70 and she was averaging just under 10 saves per contest.

“Katie was a very underrated player coming into the season,” Colicchia said. “She’s never, ever been on the varsity field. She had Laura Redler and Olivia Moser (in goal) before her and this is her first chance getting on the field. She has just proven leadership-wise to become so vocal, whereas freshman year she was silent.

“It’s just the kind of mentality you can’t teach somebody and the kind of work ethic you can’t each somebody. She brings a different level to our program where it was almost unexpected from her. It wasn’t that we weren’t counting on her. She’s a big part of our team, but leadership-wise and vocally and on the field she’s making big impacts. I’m impressed by her.”

It has been a long journey for Bohall to reach the precipice. She began playing at Pond Road Middle School in 6th grade, opting for field hockey after a less-than-scintillating soccer career.

“It was new, no one played it before middle school,” she said. “I knew some of the older players that played it, I wanted to be like them. They were role models.”

Bohall started as a defender but by 7th grade it became too painful for her to play due to missing some cartilage in her back. Desperately wanting to stay with the sport, Bohall was encouraged by her mother to play goalie to lessen the back pain. She continued to attend the Peddie camp, which she started after 6th grade.

“One year I showed up and said ‘Hi, I want to be a goalie,” Bohall said. “So they taught me, helped me figure out what to do, how to put on the equipment. Going into high school I said ‘OK I’m going to take this serious’ I bought my own equipment which opened up a lot of programs for me. I played club one year.

“It was definitely weird when I first started as a goalie. But I picked it up pretty naturally. I think it was meant to be. My mom doesn’t love that I do it now because she gets so nervous. But I think it was a good decision for me because I love the sport and didn’t want to let it go.”

When she began playing in the Ravens program, Bohall had some jitters, but also had her sights set on being the starting varsity goalie by her final season.

“Freshman year I was very scared just going into JV and definitely struggled with that,” she said. “My sophomore year I was a master at JV. Junior year I really thought I was ready for varsity but I knew Liv Moser was absolutely amazing. Even though I wasn’t playing, I was learning so much from her just being on the sideline and watching her. It bothered me a little at times (not playing) but for the most part I was just happy to be there.

“Going into this year I was looking at the stats of Liv Moser and Laura Redler. I looked up to them so much and I check their stats to this day. They were amazing goalies and I always wanted to be just like them and I was like ‘Senior year I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna be just like them.’ I don’t know how I compare to them now but I think I might have made it.”

According to Colicchia, she has definitely made it. The coach raves about how well Bohall has taken charge and set an example for younger players who could have blown her off considering this was her first year on varsity.

“Nobody looked at it like that,” Colicchia said. “They looked at it like ‘Katie’s working her butt off, I’m gonna work my butt off. Katie wants this, now I want it too.’ She doesn’t just settle for ‘I’m a senior now, I’m in goal.’ It’s ‘How am I gonna be the best I can be for the rest of the season?’”

One of Bohall’s most valued attributes is the ability to understand what she does wrong, and then quickly work to correct the shortcoming.

“She’ll tell us before we tell her,” Colicchia said. “She’ll kind of put her own practice plan in and say ‘I need to do this tomorrow.’ I’m like ‘All right Katie’ and we’ll throw whatever she wants into her practice. I like to give goalies their own separate practice plan, otherwise they end up standing around.”

Standing around is definitely not in Bohall’s DNA. Aside from her natural work ethic, she realizes that because of her height, she has to work harder at blocking shots than taller goalies.

“I don’t dive as far as other goalies and I can’t cover as much goal space, so I’m definitely more aware of the second I dive, I have to look around and get up,” she said. “When I’m reaching when I’m lunging I have to take an extra little step. In a lot of our scrimmages I had trouble with the ball going too high and I couldn’t reach it, so we do a lot of jumping drills where I jump like a soccer goalie and throw myself in the air and try to get there.”

Bohall’s attitude is exactly what coaches want to see in a player. After waiting so long to get the starter’s job, she is doing everything possible to excel at it. It may be her last year of playing unless she can find a club program in college. With a 3.9 grade point average, she is focused on academics and is looking at either the College of Charleston, Florida Atlantic or Central Florida.

Bohall hopes to visit Israel during her freshman year as she is very active in the local Jewish community. She is the president of the youth group at her Temple, and in college she is looking to major in elementary education and Jewish studies.

For now, she is enjoying every moment of what she worked so hard to achieve.

“I’ve learned more in this last month than I’ve ever learned in field hockey,” Bohall said. “It was a big change going from JV to varsity. This is my first year having it be super serious. I love how intense it is. It’s a lot more mental game than just cleaning up JV balls. It’s just been incredible.”

And so has she.