Falgowski named to the U.S. Olympic field hockey team
● By Steven Hoffman
Bill Eichinger remembers taking the St. Mark’s field hockey team to practice at the University of Delaware field in preparation for a state finals game. While his squad of high-schoolers practiced, Katelyn Falgowski was working on her field hockey skills on a nearby field. Falgowski was a sixth-grader or seventh-grader at the time, and she was so impressive that at various times the St. Mark’s players would stop and just watch the talented youngster.
A few years later, when Falgowski was finally old enough, she joined the St. Mark’s High School squad and became one of the elite players in the state.
“When she came to us as a ninth-grader, she stepped into the varsity lineup and became our best player,” explained Eichinger, who coached the St. Mark’s team for 29 years before retiring after last season.
What Eichinger remembers most about his time coaching Falgowski was her incredibly unselfish style of play as a standout midfielder.
“She was a totally unselfish player,” he explained. “She wanted to get her teammates involved in the game. She was never the high scorer on the team because of that. She was one of those players who made her teammates better all the time.”
Nothing about Falgowski’s success since she graduated from St. Mark’s surprises Eichinger—not even the fact that she will be representing the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio on a surging field hockey team.
Falgowski, the daughter of Ken and Cindy, grew up in Landenberg, and has been competing at an elite level for a very long time. In 2003, she was the youngest player to be named to the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team at the age of 14.
Eichinger said that it helped Falgowski’s development in field hockey to grow up in a talented sports family—two of her sisters played at top-notch college field hockey programs, and she grew up playing the sport the right way.
Her high school coach has fond memories of coaching the future Olympian.
“She was a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Eichinger said. “The thing that comes to mind first is that she was so unselfish as an elite player. She also took us from being a very good team to being an elite team.”
In 2006, Falgowski became the youngest U.S. player to play in the field hockey World Cup.
Her strong performance at St. Mark’s and in elite competitions helped set the stage for Falgowski to attend the University of North Carolina. She achieved more success during her college years, playing on a team that won the NCAA title. She was named a 2011 World All-Star by the International Hockey Federation and was also a nominee for the FIH Young Player of the Year Award, which is given annually to the best field hockey players under the age of 23.
On her path to success, Falgowski has overcome hurdles along the way, including a debilitating concussion in 2010 and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. This is Falgowski’s third time earning a berth on the U.S. Olympic team, having also achieved the feat in 2008, when the U.S. finished 8th in the Beijing Olympics, and 2012 when the U.S. team finished 12th in the London Olympics.
Eichinger said that he and some of Falgowski’s high school teammates in the St. Mark’s field hockey family have followed her career closely, and stay in touch with the world-traveling field hockey standout.
“We’re all excited, and the last time that we talked to her she was very, very excited about the Olympics,” Eichinger said. “I’m obviously very proud of her accomplishments.”