HEISER: Eastern York's Kelsey Felix calls berth on U-17 national team an 'amazing honor'

  • Kelsey Felix is a standout field hockey goalie for Eastern York High School.
  • Monday, Felix was named to the national under-17 field hockey squad.
  • Felix is one of just four goalies on the 30-member team.
Eastern York sophomore Kelsey Felix has earned a berth on the national under-17 field hockey team.

When Kelsey Felix was in elementary school, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Her answer? She wanted to be the goalie on the U.S women's field hockey national team.

Monday afternoon, the Eastern York High School sophomore took a giant stride toward that goal.

That's when the 16-year-old Felix learned she'd been selected to the national under-17 squad.

"I jumped up, and I started screaming," Felix said. "I started calling my mom to tell her."

Felix's mother, Steph Felix, is also her coach at Eastern York and was a standout field hockey player in her own right. Not surprisingly, she's also one proud mother.

"I was not surprised that she was selected," Steph said. "I knew she had a chance if she played well and went into the tryout with an open mind. ... . Being able to see some of her dreams start to become reality is exciting."

Starting early: Kelsey started playing the game in third grade, and her desire to succeed quickly became apparent.

"When Kelsey was little, her dad umpired baseball. She would often put on his umpire gear and ask us to hit hockey balls at her," Steph said.

Steph said her 5-foot, 9-inch daughter  boasts a number of attributes that make her excel in the cage.

"She is quick, has size, sees the ball well, is able to read the play in front of her and communicates effectively with her defense to help position them," she said.

Kelsey Felix was an all-state and all-league goaltender last season for Eastern York.

Surviving gauntlet of tryouts: Kelsey had to survive a gauntlet of tournaments and tryouts to become one of four goalies on the 30-member U-17 national squad. The final tryout stage was the recent U-17 Junior National Selection Camp.

"I went into the (Junior National Selection Camp) with a different mindset," Kelsey said. "At previous camps, it was like 'I'm going to make this team' and I forgot to have fun. This camp I focused on having fun and learning new things, and I made the team and I made a lot of new friends along the way. I'm happy with the outcome."

Kelsey said making the national team team was an "amazing honor" and the greatest accomplishment of her field hockey career.

It's far from her only achievement, however.

Other honors: She's already been rated one of the top 50 recruits in the nation for the Class of 2021 by Max Field Hockey.

In addition, last season, she was named an all-state honorable mention selection in Class 1-A by the Pennsylvania High School Field Hockey Coaches Association, while also earning a berth on the York-Adams League Division III All-Star Team.

As a sophomore for Eastern, she saved 81 percent of the 110 shots she faced, registering seven shutouts. She even came out of goal to score on a penalty stroke to give the Golden Knights an overtime win against Kennard-Dale.

She helped Eastern to a 12-7 season, which was a marked improvement over the Knights' 7-10-1 mark in 2017.

Playing the field is nothing new for Kelsey. During her freshman season, Eastern had an experienced goalie and needed help in the field, so she played the center-mid position and collected four goals and seven assists while earning D-III all-star honors.

A family affair: Field hockey talent seems to run in the Felix family. Steph was a standout for Donegal High's powerhouse program and won three NCAA Division II titles at Lock Haven University. She also had the opportunity to try out for the national team in 1993.

"Trying out for the U.S. team was a great experience," Steph said. "That experience provides us a common frame of reference to talk about things as she continues along this journey."

Training at Spooky Nook: Kelsey plays club hockey out of the Spooky Nook sports complex in Lancaster County, which just happens to be the home training facility for the national team. Pennsylvania has long been known as a field hockey hotbed, so it's not surprising that 12 of the 30 members of the U-17 national team are from the Keystone State.

"It helps tremendously," Kelsey said of consistently competing against other Pennsylvania players. "There are so many great field hockey players in this area, and the level of play is better than in other states."

Steph said training at Spooky Nook has afforded her daughter invaluable opportunities to train with and be coached by current and former national team members.

One of the players on the national senior team is Central York graduate Lauren Moyer, who has served as an inspiration for Kelsey.

"It's cool how we came from the same area," she said. "I want to be like her."

Future goals: Making the senior national team is just one of Kelsey's goals. She'd also like to play NCAA Division I field hockey (Northwestern and Lock Haven are among the schools she's considering) and possibly even compete in the Olympics.

"If Kelsey continues to work hard and has fun, she can compete at any level," her mother said. 

Hoping to earn trip to Germany: Those goals are down the road. More immediately, she's hoping to earn a berth on the U-17 traveling team that will compete in Germany in April. Only two of the four U.S. goalies will likely make the trip to face off vs. the U-16 teams from Germany and Belgium, so there are no guarantees. She'll continue to have to prove herself during training over the next several weeks,

Despite her impressive field hockey resume, things haven't always gone smoothly for Kelsey.

"Two years ago, she was not selected to the regional club championship team at the Nook, and that was a humbling experience for her," Steph said. "It encouraged her to not only work harder to improve, but it reminded her to have fun and enjoy the process of developing as a player."

Role model: Her mother said Kelsey enjoys being a role model for younger players. She even officiates youth field hockey games. 

"Kelsey encourages them to work hard and have fun while playing hockey," Steph said. "Growing the game is very important to her."

It's a game that has already been very good to the Felix family, and it will likely provide Kelsey with tremendous opportunities for years to come.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.