Ruth gives verbal to Saint Francis
By: BRUCE MORGAN Review Staff, Staff Writer
At one point, Saint Joseph’s University was number one on Mackenzie Ruth’s wish list.
However, the Ephrata High School star field hockey player never gave a commitment to continue her career with the Lady Hawks.
Today, she’s happy that she didn’t rush to a decision.
As things progressed over the summer, Saint Francis University, another Division-One school, entered the mix for Ruth and grabbed the inside track.
The Ephrata senior visited the campus, located in Loretto (just east of Pittsburgh), at the end of September, sat down with Red Flash Coach Stacey Bean and never looked back. Last month, Ruth made a verbal commitment to accept a partial athletic offer to play field hockey and study elementary education at Saint Francis. The Red Flash play in the Northeast Conference.
"I almost went to St. Joe’s," she said, "but I waited and I’m glad I did. I was actually talking to D-II schools and then one day, the St. Francis coach emailed me and I totally forgot I even talked to them (previously). I went on my visit and I really liked Saint Francis and (coach Bean). It just worked out."
Division II schools Long Island Post University and East Stroudsburg University, both which compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, were among the others that were also interested. But Saint Francis was just a great fit.
"I’m excited," Ruth said. "It feels good (to know where I’m going to college)."
Ephrata assistant coach Joy Rice deserves an assist in helping Saint Francis land one of the L-L League’s top seniors. Rice previously played for Bean at Rhode Island University and remains close with her former mentor, so she was able to serve as a liaison.
As Ruth learned more about the Saint Francis program, Bean became a big reason that she wanted to play for the Red Flash. Coupled with the opportunity to play at the Division-One level, it became an easy choice for Ruth.
"It gave me a chance to play at the highest level, and I really like that because Coach Bean is great too. And that’s not easy to find," she said. "That was always my goal (to play Division-I), but I wasn’t sure at the beginning of my senior year if I was going to play there anymore just because I thought I was running out of time."
Although the Red Flash compete on the Division-One level, the student enrollment of just under 2,500 was a bonus for Ruth.
"I wanted to have a good teacher-to-student ratio," she said, "because I want to get to know my professors. With the sports, I like how my coach keeps a small roster and she also is really down to earth and she doesn’t only care about field hockey, but academics and other things as well."
Among the four seniors on the Saint Francis roster this fall was Kellie Mason, who had jersey No. 6. That opens the way for Ruth to wear the same number on her back that she has donned since her seventh-grade season.
Two L-L League alumni — Warwick’s Kate Rossman and Joceyln Scillia — were also members of the 2012 Red Flash team. While Rossman recently completed her senior season with the Red Flash, Scillia is returning in 2013 for one more year of eligibility.
"I didn’t get to meet (Scillia) yet," Ruth said, "but my coach said she was going to be excited because she’s been begging for someone from the L-L League."
The Red Flash are certainly excited to add someone of Ruth’s caliber to the program. A three-time L-L Section Two All-Star and a four-year letterwinner with the Lady Mounts (three as a starter), she was a captain for the Ephrata team that finished 13-6 this past fall while advancing to the L-L League and District Three Triple-A playoffs.
Showing strong stick skills and speed on the Lady Mounts’ forward line, Ruth finished fifth in the section scoring race this season with 10 goals and four assists. For her career, she compiled balanced numbers with 23 goals and 22 assists at Ephrata.
At season’s end, Ruth was named Offensive MVP of the L-L League All-Star Game, which was held Nov. 11 at Cedar Crest High School.
She will join a Red Flash squad that shared the Northeast Conference regular-season title this year with Robert Morris University. They advanced to the semi-final round of the NEC Championship, where they suffered a 3-1 loss to Monmouth, ending their season with a final record of 12-6.
Auckland, New Zealand native Carissa Makea, a Second-Team All-Region selection this year, will lead the list of returnees in 2013 for the Red Flash.
"She’s only a sophomore," Ruth said, "and she is so good."
It won’t be long before Makea and Ruth are teammates helping the Red Flash try to build on the success they enjoyed this year.
In the meantime, Ruth will continue to work hard to prepare herself for the challenge ahead. She got a taste of some tough competition at the National Field Hockey Festival, which was held over Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Fla. But with her college choice out of the way, it was one less thing she had to worry about there.
"I wanted to (make my decision) by Festival so I wasn’t nervous to play in front of my coach," Ruth said, "and I just wanted to have fun."
She expects to have a lot more fun over the next four years playing for coach Bean at Saint Francis. More RUTH, page B-3