At the end of June 2012, before her freshman year at Wilkes University (Penn.), Alexis Reed got the word that the only other goalie on the team’s field hockey team would not be playing. That meant that Reed was the one. She would be the one getting all the reps in three-hour practices. She would be the one facing the pressure of starting as a freshman in NCAA Division III competition. She would be the one with the spotlight on her.
Talk about being thrown into the fire from the start.
“It was either like you were going to sink or you’re going to sail,” said Reed, a Greenport High School graduate.
In essence, Reed’s education as a college goalie was compressed and intensive. It wasn’t always easy.
“I’m not going to lie, I called my mom crying a lot the first two weeks,” Reed said. “Everything was so new.”
Reed started all 17 games Wilkes played her freshman season, making 137 saves for a .753 save percentage. Wilkes brought in goaltending help for this past season, but Reed still started all 20 games as a sophomore. She helped the Lady Colonels win their first Freedom Conference championship since 1999 and gain their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995.
In retrospect, Reed said being thrust into a starting role was probably the best thing that could have happened to her.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it elevated my game so much,” she said. “It was like probably the equivalent of playing two travel seasons, the progress I made in one season.”
Reed was a standout in high school for the former Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island team. A converted soccer goalie who took up field hockey for the first time as a sophomore, she led the Clippers to the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since at least 1987. Over the course of her three-year high school career, she posted a school record 19 shutouts, was a two-time team most valuable player and an All-County honorable mention selection as a senior.
As highly regarded as Reed was in high school, she soon learned that she had a lot of work ahead of her to adjust to the quicker, more demanding college game.
“In college, the balls are coming so much faster, and I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was,” she said. “I feel like I was such a novice. I was like a baby goalkeeper. I knew I had a lot to work on, but I didn’t know how much I had to work on.”
Reed, who had relied on her natural ability in high school, discovered that wasn’t enough any more. She focused on her technique, working on her footwork and practicing cutting down angles. Conditioning and strength training also helped her deal with the rigors of college field hockey.
For Reed, it was the perfect example of the old saying: The more you learn, the more you learn how much you don’t know.
“I can be totally honest and say I don’t know everything and I do have a lot to work on,” she said. “I feel like I’m in the beginning stage, but I can only get better.”
Wilkes recently completed a memorable season. Reed said the team’s coach, Mollie Reichard, took a leave of absence and a graduate assistant, Kealy Chipman, served as the interim coach.
The Lady Colonels defeated nearby Misericordia University (Penn.), 2-1, in overtime in the conference final. Reed made several key stops in the game.
“Everyone worked so hard,” Reed said. “… Literally, the entire team stepped up their entire game. It was such a great experience. We said: ‘We don’t want this to end. We want to come back year after year.’ ”
The postseason ride ended for Wilkes, however, in their first-round NCAA Tournament game, a 5-0 loss to Ursinus (Penn.). That left the Lady Colonels with an 8-12 record.
Reed, who made 14 saves against Ursinus, finished the season with a 3.04 goals against average. She made 174 saves and had a .740 save percentage.
Those early difficult days at Wilkes must now seem like a long time ago for Reed, an elementary education major with a certification in special education. She said the school in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania is now her home away from home.
“Everything does happen for a reason,” she said. She added: “It’s the best thing I probably could have done, to get myself recruited and play college field hockey. You have a team full of sisters who genuinely care.”