Introductions were not needed when Bermudian Springs named its new varsity field hockey coach, as the Eagles will be led by one of the architects that helped build a powerhouse program.
Kristy Zehr was recently pegged as Neil Bixler’s successor, moving from assistant to the head coaching position. Guiding an Eagle team will be nothing new for Zehr, who served as Berm’s head coach for 10 seasons in the 1990s. She was an assistant under Bixler for the last 12 years and has been involved with the Eagle program for more than two decades.
In selecting Zehr, Bermudian athletic director Dave Orwig found someone whose passion for the school and the sport runs deep.
“I am Berm field hockey,” said Zehr, laughing. “I just love it. I’m super excited.”
Zehr developed a lifelong love of the sport during her playing days at Ephrata High School, where the Mountaineers were a District 3 champion. She later competed at Goshen College in Indiana before eventually coming to Bermudian Springs, where she spent 29 years as an educator. She most recently taught earth and space science to freshmen and was the stage manager for more than two dozen musicals prior to retiring following the 2019 school year.
“She has 25 years of Bermudian Springs field hockey experience, including the last 12 as an assistant coach, and was part of all the accomplishments,” said Orwig. “We’re hoping she falls in love with it and gives us another 12 years.”
Zehr worked alongside Bixler, who retired last fall after compiling 309 wins and 15 YAIAA-3 titles during his stellar 19-year tenure. She plans to retain some of the things done in the past while also putting her signature on tactics and schemes moving forward.
“We’ve been very successful and I want to continue that,” she said. “There will be an overlap for a lot of the drills because they were good, but I’ll also take some of the old drills and tweak them a bit. This should make it comfortable for the upperclassmen to roll into.”
Zehr spoke highly of her assistants, Chelsey Bailey and Carli Messinger. Bailey, a former player at Palmyra, comes into the fold with a defensive mindset.
“I’m so excited to have her on the coaching sideline to provide a new perspective and a breath of fresh air,” said Zehr. “I’m really excited to have her on board.”
Messinger, a former Eagle, will serve as the JV coach.
“I feel really good about our staff,” said Zehr. “We’re meshing really well and I’m excited about working together. It’s not one standout coach, it’s a group of three which is how it should be.”
Zehr describes herself as a communicator, someone who keeps daily contact with her players and parents. She stresses technique and tempo, staples of the Bermudian program.
“We want speed on the go but we want to do it correctly,” she said of drills and workouts.
Zehr said return-to-play guidelines in response to the coronavirus pandemic have made training challenging, but the Eagles are finding ways to get in their work.
“Two sticks apart, that’s our motto for coronavirus,” she said. “We stay two sticks apart, which is six feet.”
It will be a season of change in more ways than one for the Eagles, who are moving down from the YAIAA-3 into the Y-4 this season. They’ll also have a new look on the field after graduating a host of talented players from last year’s 19-5 squad that missed qualifying for the PIAA Championships by a single game. Among the departed is superb scorer Skyler West, who piled up 30 goals and 20 assists last fall.
Zehr pointed to seniors Keri Speelman (defender), Lindsey Kutz (defender/mid) and Hannah Wolfe (goalkeeper) as the anchors of the squad and mentioned forward Melanie Beall as an up-and-comer to watch.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time, especially with corona,” said Zehr. “You really have to approach each game with the attitude that it could be your last game, and make it memorable.”