Almost 4,000 miles from Bethlehem is home to three Lehigh hockey players. Senior Linki Havas, second Sarah Bunthes and rookie Lotte Smurrenburg are all Dutch citizens.
Due to the fall sports cancellation, Havas was only on campus last semester, but now all three are on campus preparing for the spring season. On January 17, the three athletes returned together from the Netherlands to Lehigh and embarked on 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 in a second lockdown. During the winter break, they begin to complete the exercises assigned to them by Lehigh’s team in their training kits.
“Even though everything was at home, my coach did a really good job keeping in touch with everyone,” said Bonthuis. “We had a lot of team meetings … maybe once or twice a week.”
While staying motivated can be difficult at times, Bonthuis said thinking about seeing everyone again should keep going home.
She said the team has a well-built base and the athletes know what to expect from coach Caitlin Dallmayr. Their goal was to come back and prepare for anything.
The coaches have done everything to ensure that their players in the Netherlands are active members of the team. Each week, a teammate of hockey players is assigned to call him.
“As a staff, we had to work hard to stay in touch through Zoom, and the jet lag was not always favorable as the seasons were not fully suited to our international athletes,” said Dallmeyer.
Dallmeyer said Bonthuis and Smorenburg had slightly different experiences, despite being distant students.
“I think it was more difficult for Lute (Smurrenburg) because she was also in her freshman year and had no experience with Lehigh,” said Dallmeier.
While transferring to the International College is not an easy task in the event of a pandemic, one of the perks Smornberg reaped was the contact with his Dutch teammates.
Smorenburg was able to speak to Bonthuis and Havas during the hiring process. They gave her advice on paperwork and moving to the United States in general.
Smorenburg and Bonthuis said their experience was easier knowing that his teammates are in the exact same place.
“It’s nice to have people that you can always reach out to when you’re struggling with homesickness or whatever,” Smorenburg said.
Dallmeyer said it was beneficial for the program to have international students on their roster.
Dallmeyer said hockey is a popular sport in other countries and that he actually sees 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,” said Dallmeyer.
Both Bonthuis and Smorenburg were drawn to Lehigh because of the strict academics and the demanding hockey schedule. Smorenburg said the team environment is healthy and welcoming for new players.
While the goal of each team is to win trophies, Bonthuis said she also wants to work on building high momentum for the team and improving their communication skills.
On March 7, the trio will finally play against the American League in the season opener.