You’ve probably heard this kind of story before. Kate Pistel grew up in Amherst, Mass., where she spent a lot of time at Amherst College sporting events. Her father is an Amherst alum and worked at Amherst until he retired.
So when it came time for Kate to choose a college, she knew that she wanted to go to a school in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
And she chose Colby.
From the time she came to Waterville, Pistel has been one of the best all-around athletes in school history. She’s the No. 1 squash player and went 22-7 this winter as Colby finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally. As a sophomore attacker on the lacrosse team last spring, she was named second-team All-American.
Soccer is clearly Pistel’s third -best sport — she decided to play it in college less than a month before she moved in at Colby — and still she tied for the team lead in scoring as a freshman and has been a starter the last two seasons.
“I think being a three-sport athlete at any level is impressive these days,” Colby women’s lacrosse coach Karen MacCrate Henning said. “But at the college level, there’s only a few people out there who are capable of playing three sports at the level she’s playing. She’s an impact player in three seasons.”
On top of all that, Pistel (pronounced like “pistol”) made the all-sportsmanship team for squash, and has a great name for an athlete.
“People actually don’t know that it’s my last name,” Pistel said. “People think that it’s a nickname given to me. So we get a lot of comments. I’m lucky I have that name. I love it.”
Pistel said doing all this at Colby, instead of Amherst, didn’t bother her father.
“He was actually excited,” she said. “He wanted me to go to a NESCAC (school) as well. As long as I loved it, he didn’t care where I went.”
By playing three sports, Pistel misses the opportunity to focus on one. While her lacrosse teammates are staying sharp in the fall and winter, for example, she’s playing soccer and squash.
“It’s actually kind of nice,” Pistel said, “because I have a set schedule: I wake up, go to class all day, and then I go to practice, and then do homework at night. I have free time, but I have to be productive with it. I don’t think I’d get burned out, necessarily, if I played just one, but I like the variety.”
Pistel, a left-hander, was second on the lacrosse team with 27 goals and 41 points last season. Colby finished 15-5 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals.
“She’s just a leader on the field now,” Henning said. “She’s going to make good decisions. I would say in the past, she was a little bit more emotional — which is also helpful, because she’s passionate. But now she knows how to put it to good use.”
Lacrosse Magazine had Colby ranked 11 and Amherst 13th in its preseason poll, and the teams opened their seasons March 10 in Waterville. With less than 30 seconds to play, Amherst had the ball with the score tied at 6.
Pistel suddenly stole the ball and got it ahead to Lindsey McKenna, who scored with 5.7 seconds to play, giving Colby the win.
“They were playing a very slow-paced game,” Henning said. “They were trying to control the tempo. They were saving it for the last shot. Kate just saw an opportunity, and she got a nice backcheck off.”
Added Pistel: “At the end of the game, I don’t know what it was. I knew that we needed the ball, and I knew there was something I had to do about it. I took a huge risk — which right now I’m happy I took, but at the time, should have questioned a little more — and luckily it worked out for us in the end.”
It was a snapshot of everything that Pistel can do on the field: Great defense. A constant scoring threat. A leader who makes big plays at crucial times. She and the Mules have since improved to 3-0, and they will be vying for their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
“I think any single person could go on the field and make an impact,” Pistel said. “From freshman to senior, anyone can play, and if someone gets injured, there will be someone who can fill their spot, and it won’t make a difference. I think in past years, (that’s) helped us as well. But this year, especially, we have a lot of depth.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243