by Alan Babbitt
Keagan Pontious took hold of the lacrosse stick handed to her as an eighth grader and has never looked back.
Now, after a decorated collegiate career, Pontious is moving to the sidelines as the new head women's lacrosse coach at Hope College. The former Caledonia High School standout and NCAA Division II All-American follows Kim Vincent, who retired in May after five successful seasons leading the Flying Dutch.
"We are excited to have Keagan join our team and look forward to her building on the success Kim brought to our program," said Tim Schoonveld, Hope's co-director of athletics. "She is a talented person who will bring a level of expertise and competitiveness that will benefit our student-athletes, our women's lacrosse program and Hope College. We look forward to watching her transform the lives of the women in the program as she leads our team to competitive excellence on the field."
Pontious is Hope's third head coach since women's lacrosse became a varsity sport in 2013.
A 2018 Seton Hill graduate, Pontious holds a bachelor's in business administration. She is currently working toward completing her master's in business administration at Seton Hill.
"I am very excited. I think Hope College offers a great opportunity to start my college coaching career and ultimately impact these women's lives," Pontious said. "I am honored to be given this opportunity to join the program as Hope College's new head coach."
The Flying Dutch are coming off their best lacrosse season in team history that included 11 victories and their second appearance in the MIAA Tournament championship game. Only two seniors graduated from the 2019 team.
"Kim is definitely a great coach who knew how to recruit. She has recruited some phenomenal players and got them to play together," Pontious said. "That is something to build on. I want to continue to develop the team's lacrosse IQ and stick work, so we can compete for a conference championship."
Pontious has become accustomed to success on the lacrosse field since she was introduced to the sport in middle school.
"My gym teacher, Ralph Shefferly at Duncan Lake Middle School, put a lacrosse stick in my hand in eighth grade and said you should try this," Pontious said. "I played different sports growing up. Lacrosse really challenged me, and I enjoyed the challenge."
As a player, Pontious closed her college career this past spring by helping Seton Hill make its first postseason appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament and earning third-team All-America honors from the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association.
Pontious was one of 48 Division II women's lacrosse players across the country to receive All-America honors. As a senior attacker, she scored 58 goals during the 2019 season — finishing second on the Seton Hill in scoring and tying for fourth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. She also totaled 14 assists and 85 draw controls.
It was a satisfying finish with Seton Hill after injuries cut short two of her earlier seasons.
"I worked through two season-ending surgeries. That was a struggle. I came back after each one," said Pontious, a third-team all-conference midfielder in 2015 and a second-team all-conference attacker in 2017.
"I met amazing people when I played lacrosse in college. They are my best friends for life. Lacrosse brought all of us together. My coach, Courtney Grove, was instrumental developing me as a player and a person. She was fantastic."
Pontious succeeded in the classroom as well at Seton Hill. She finished her undergraduate studies with a 3.95 GPA and made the dean's list all four years.
When she was not playing lacrosse, Pontious remained involved in the sport working at the club level the past five years. She is an assistant director and instructor for Grand Rapids-based Pure Advantage Lacrosse, which fields six teams.
"I've learned to push the girls in a positive way," Pontious said. "My goal is to grow Hope's program into a family that values excellence by developing these young women individually to come together and succeed as a team. "I want my student-athletes to embrace the competitiveness of the game and have lacrosse become a major part of their college careers. Through my heart-and-hustle philosophy, the team will be pushed to achieve new heights and understand the responsibilities of being a student-athlete at Hope College."