“Keeping Up with Kassidy,”
RISING SENIOR IS ONE OF BERGEN’S BEST FIELD HOCKEY PLAYERS IN YEARS
Darren has been The Record’s local sports columnist since 2010. He is from Southern Louisiana and a graduate of LSU and is always looking for good jambalaya. He lives in Essex County with his wife and three boys.
Kassidy Shetler watches the cooking show Chopped and realizes her Oreo-infused brownies probably aren’t good enough to win. “I just sit there and say, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I want to take anything in the pantry and make something amazing,” the Ramsey High School senior says.
When it comes to field hockey, Shetler, 17, creates amazing combinations. Her speed and stick skills make her one of the top players to come out of Bergen County in years. She led the Rams to the 2015 Bergen County title and committed to play for Rutgers the summer before her junior season.
Field hockey does not get the same recognition as other sports in North Jersey. It’s largely overshadowed by football and soccer in the fall. But the game is competitive and athletic. It’s exactly as it’s called, hockey on a field. Players like Shetler could help bridge the popularity gap. She can play, even if a lot of people aren’t sure what she is carrying in her luggage when she goes to tournaments.
“I’ve been to California and Virginia and Florida and I bring my field hockey stick, and in the airport people are constantly asking me, ‘What is that?’” laughs Shetler.
“It would be great if more schools in the area gave it a chance because it really is a great sport to watch,” Rebecca Fantry, Ramsey field hockey coach, says. “The sport itself has also changed to be a more fan-friendly game. It moves a lot quicker and has less stoppages of play.”
Shetler was always playing sports growing up and credits her grandfather, Robert Hands, for getting her involved and active. Her aunt was a standout field hockey player at Northern Highlands before hurting her knee, but Shetler didn’t try field hockey until eighth grade. She was more into soccer, softball and basketball.
“A friend used to talk about field hockey and say it was so much fun and I was like, ‘No, that is stupid, why would I ever want to do that?’”
Eventually, Shetler broke down and gave it a try. It was love at first stick.
“I can’t explain it,” Shetler says. “I just liked the concept of the game. I liked that it’s a team sport and it’s so different than your ordinary sports you see every day.”
Fantry says, “I remember telling my Dad, who was helping me coach my middle school team when Kassidy was in eighth grade, she was going to be something. I just kept telling him that she was going to be the next great thing.”
Shetler could not get enough of the sport. She started to practice every day, forehand strokes and backhand strokes. She set up an obstacle course in her bedroom to dribble around. She joined a club team, “G-Force,” and started working with them. Her goal was simple: make Ramsey’s varsity field hockey team as a freshman.
“My mom said I had been only playing for a year, but I said I was going to do it, I promise,” Shetler says.
Fantry knew what she had in Shetler. She was only 5-foot-4, but had quickness, plus she could move the ball without having to slow down. Putting Shetler on the varsity team as a freshman seemed like a logical step in her development.
“I knew I had to get her in the mix working with my older players so she could gain that experience and learn from them,” Fantry says. “I think having her be on that field freshman year made a huge difference for her as it gave her the taste of wanting to be better and knowing what it took to compete at the next level.”
Shetler still practices daily. She gave up her other sports in favor of field hockey, attends skill clinics at Rutgers, and watches college field hockey games on her computer.
“I can’t explain what I love about it,” Shetler says. “I love every aspect of the game. I love the different things you can do. I love how you can be creative. I love all the skills the international players have. I love everything about it.”
At Ramsey, Shetler plays the left inner position. To use a soccer analogy, it’s kind of like a forward. For her club team, she’s a midfielder.
Last season, Shetler helped the Rams win the Bergen County title and reach the North 1, Group 2 final by scoring a ridiculous 35 goals, along with 22 assists. Field hockey may be a fast game, but some teams go whole seasons without scoring 35 goals.
“Her talent is some of the best I’ve seen in my nine years of coaching,” Fantry says. “She gets along great with her teammates and is very unselfish. She is hungry to score, but she also sets up her teammates to be successful, which makes her more of a threat.”
This season, Shetler will once again be a marked player in North Jersey. She says she gets pushed around some, so she pushes right back.
At Rutgers, she’s planning on going in undecided, and if she doesn’t find something she likes, she may try her hand at the Culinary Institute of America and study the concept of savory, meaning the preparation of meats.
“She loves the game. She loves Rutgers, this is going to be a great mix,” Fantry says. “Kassidy is inquisitive and passionate, and those are things coaches can’t teach. I think she is going to be extremely successful there and she is going to help them continue to be successful. This is a fantastic opportunity for her and I’m extremely proud of her.”
“KASSIDY IS INQUISITIVE AND PASSIONATE, AND THOSE ARE THINGS COACHES CAN’T TEACH.” Rebecca Fantry, Ramsey High School field hockey coach
LEADING SCORER Kassidy Shetler (99) netted her 32nd goal of the season to seal Ramsey High School’s victory over Northern Highlands Regional in the 2015 Bergen County Championship. It was the school’s second title in a row.