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Coach links lacrosse team to glory days

Liz Brode Ota brings passion and energy to her new job as women's lacrosse coach.

A decade ago, Liz Brode Ota '95 was a lacrosse star at Lehigh, earning Patriot League MVP and second-team All-American honors for a squad that rose as high as number 12 in the national polls.

Now Brode Ota is back home at Lehigh as the program's fourth head coach in as many years. Her goal is to return the Mountain Hawks (5-10 overall, 1-5 Patriot League last season) to their once lofty perch atop the Patriot League standings. Brode Ota has the knowledge, the love of Lehigh, and the credentials to make that happen.

When her playing career ended, she served as assistant lacrosse coach for one year at Harvard University and then worked in the admissions office at Lehigh. Brode Ota left Lehigh to return to her old high school (The Springside School in Philadelphia) in the late 1990s, working as the school's director of admissions, varsity lacrosse coach, and then athletic director. She stepped down from the AD post in 2001, focusing her attention on the arrival of her first child, Madeline, and on completing her law degree at Temple University (she graduated last spring).

But even though she always had a lot on her plate, Brode Ota never lost interest in what was going on at Lehigh. Her former college coach, Jackie Keeley, retired after the 2002 season and the school went through two coaches over the next two seasons. The instability in the program really struck Brode Ota because three 2004 Lehigh graduates whom Ota coached at Springside -- Rebecca Morley and Ella and Emily Studdiford -- had played under three different mentors while in Bethlehem.

"Knowing that three girls I coached in high school had to adjust to three different coaches during their Lehigh careers really drove home to me, in a personal way, that the program needs to get back on track," Brode Ota says. "I had kept in touch with [Lehigh Athletic Director] Joe Sterrett over the years and realized that he shared my concerns over the direction that the program was headed."

So despite being eight months pregnant with her second child, Brode Ota interviewed for and landed the job at Lehigh. How committed is Brode Ota to turning things around? Just two weeks after she gave birth to Charlie in late August, she was on the practice field -- getting her first Lehigh team ready for fall ball.

Helping Brode Ota in her quest to return Lehigh to its former glory is assistant coach Jill Johnson Redfern, a 1993 U.S. World Cup teammate of Brode Ota's Springside coach, Betsy Dougherty.

"Having Jill -- someone who has been here the past few years as an assistant and who knows the players on this team so well -- is invaluable," Brode Ota says. "Plus, our coaching styles mesh very well together. Jill is a great asset to this program."

Brode Ota's first Lehigh squad will be led by senior defensive wings Barrie Cominsky (36 points in 2004) and Kristen Sherry. Junior Eileen Miller will also be a major factor on the defensive end, while sophomore Amy Chamberlain (22 points last year) and seniors Sarah Starsoneck (25 points) and Kellan Van Hoesen (24 points) will pace the offensive attack, along with Cominsky.

"Because coach is so young, she's very energetic and connects well with the players," Cominsky says. "She has a vision for where she wants to take this program and I'm sure that she'll succeed in taking it there because of her passion and energy."

--Bill Doherty

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Winter 2005

Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005

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