Almost 4,000 miles from Bethlehem is home to three Lehigh hockey players. Senior Linki Havas, sophomore Sarah Bunthes, and freshman Lotte Smornberg are all Dutch citizens.
Due to the cancellation of sports in the fall, Havas was only on campus last semester, but all three were on campus in preparation for the spring season. On January 17, all three athletes returned together from the Netherlands to Lehigh and began a two-week quarantine.
Bonthuis and Smorenburg continued to play with the club’s local hockey teams to stay in shape before entering the Netherlands for their second lockdown. During the winter break, they begin to complete the exercises assigned to them by the Lehigh team in their training packages.
“Even though everything was at home, my coach did a very good job of keeping in touch with everyone,” Bonthuis said. “We had a lot of team meetings … maybe once or twice a week.”
While staying motivated at times was difficult, Bonthuis said the thought of seeing everyone again should continue to be at home.
She said the team has a good foundation and the athletes know what to expect from coach Caitlin Dallmayr. Their goal was to get back and prepare for everything.
The coaching staff did everything they could to ensure that their players in the Netherlands were active members of the team. Every week a fellow hockey player is assigned to call him.
“As an employee, we had to work hard to keep in touch with Zoom, and the time lag was not always appropriate because the seasons did not fully adapt to our international athletes,” Dallmeyer said.
Dallmeyer said that Bonthuis and Smorenburg have had slightly different experiences, despite being far students.
“I think it was more difficult for Lott (Smorenburg) because she was also in her first year and had no experience with Lehigh,” Dallmeier said.
Although moving to an international college is not an easy task in the event of a pandemic, one of the benefits Smornberg took advantage of was contacts with her Dutch teammates.
Smorenburg was able to speak with Bonthuis and Havas during the hiring process. They advise her about paperwork and moving to the US in general.
Smorenburg and Bonthuis said their experience was easier knowing his teammates are in the exact same location.
“It’s nice to have people you can always reach when you’re struggling with something like homesickness or something else,” Smorenburg said.
Dallmeyer said it was helpful for the program to have international students on their list.
Dallmeyer said hockey is a popular sport in other countries and is actually seeing a large number of male athletes, which is unusual in the United States.
“Opening our minds to find these players and integrating them into our hockey system here in the United States is very important to improving our game as Lehighs hockey players and American hockey players,” Dallmeier said.
Both Bonthuis and Smorenburg were drawn to Lehigh due to its strict academics and challenging hockey program. Smorenburg said the team environment is healthy and attractive to new players.
While the goal of each team is to win titles, Bonthuis said she also wants to work on building high team dynamics and improving their communication skills.
On March 7, the Trio will finally play when they face Major League Soccer in the season opener.