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Lillie Nitzken Plays Two Sports, Takes Term “Student-Athlete” to New Level

BY KELSEY O’BRYAN, SPORTS EDITOR

Lillie Nitzken gets about a week off every year as she transitions from one college sport to the next. Nitzken is a junior at Bellarmine, and she plays field hockey and softball along with being a full-time student.

Growing up, Nitzken developed a love for both field hockey and softball and was incredibly grateful when Bellarmine offered her the opportunity to pursue them both at the collegiate level. She is admired by her teammates and coaches for her ability to balance much more than the average college student.

“Lillie’s time-management skills are the key to being successful playing two sports,” said head field hockey coach Mark Blankebaker. “While in different seasons, both field hockey and softball are year-round sports. She must also balance her academics to maintain our high academic standards.”

Nitzken’s teammates on both teams view her as a leader.

“I always look up to her because she’s a great role model for the younger girls on our team,” said softball teammate Katie Stamper. “She’s out there working hard all the time. It’s impressive to see how focused she is, and I can tell that people feed off of her and her energy.”

Nitzken is preparing for her third year on the softball team and plays first base. As she adjusts from field hockey to softball mode, she must focus on playing a different type of game.

Head softball coach Renee Hicks said that Nitzken’s first few practices coming from field hockey to softball require a lot of concentration.

“Attacking the ball is a little bit different, with it being in the air and not on the ground,” Hicks said. “Her lower body has to react.”

But the adjustments do not take a lot of time. Hicks said that Nitzken is a great coach to herself and corrects her mistakes without needing instruction.

While field hockey and softball are very different, Nitzken brings the same competitive mindset to both sports.

“I always try to work hard at practice,” said Nitzken. “Both sports can be a lot to handle, but I have a lot of people that support me.”

However, Nitzken’s hard-working mentality is not limited to the softball and field hockey fields. She excels just as much academically. This past semester, she had a 3.5 GPA, earned Dean’s List honors and was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Academic team.

“I’m really organized and I like to get things done ahead of time,” Nitzken said. “I have always been that way because of sports.”

Nitzken is pursuing a double major in communication and sports administration. She said she hopes to eventually start a career in the sports industry, and she is on track to do so. She recently accepted a summer internship with University of Louisville athletics.

During her internship, Nitzken will have the opportunity to help coordinate NCAA tournamnets hosted by UofL.

“Lillie is just as dedicated in the classroom as she is on both fields she plays on,” said field hockey teammate Sara Wilder. “I can always count on her to sit down and do some homework with me.”

Nitzken recognizes that she must prioritize her academics in the midst of practices, games, and strength training for both of her sports.

“I’m not the type of student that can go into a test not studying at all and get an A on it,” Nitzken said. “I have to work hard to get good grades.”

Nitzken must balance a lot and is very appreciative of the support that she receives from her teammates, family and coaches.

“Lillie is a competitor,” Blankenbaker said. “She likes to win and pushes herself one hundred percent on and off the field.”

Both of Nitzken’s coaches describe her as a role model to other student-athletes.

“Her being able to juggle both as a student playing two sports, Lillie has done it first-class,” Hicks said. “There’s not many people out there like her.”

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