WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – As a four-year player on the Shepherd Hill Regional field hockey team, Alex Kallgren drew little attention from college coaches. Playing for a Class “S” high school tucked into a rural area of south central Massachusetts, the 5-foot-3 inch Kallgren was named team MVP as a senior captain in the fall of 2013, but the small town of Dudley (pop.: 11, 390) was not a destination for college coaches when mapping out their recruiting visits.
While Kallgren was not on college coaches’s radar in high school, she surely commanded their attention while wearing an Eastern Connecticut State University uniform.
And in short order.
After coming off the bench in the first game of her career in 2014, Kallgren was a mainstay in the starting lineup for the next four seasons, starting every game but two the rest of the way (yielding her starting spot to upperclassmen on Seniors’ Day as a sophomore and junior).
In 72 career games over four seasons, Kallgren contributed at least one point in a match more than half the time, and recorded more than one goal in a match six times.
She set the tone individually and for the team right from the start, totaling seven goals and 15 points in her first four starts which got the Warriors a then-record four straight wins and their best start (4-1) in program history.
Kallgren tied the career record for goals (29) on Oct. 1 of a junior year with a pair in a Little East Conference match at Salem State University, and broke the record on opening day of her senior season. Three weeks later, she established a program record with her 80th career point with a goal and two assists against LEC foe Framingham State University.
Kallgren saved her final points in an Eastern uniform for a monumental occasion when she netted her second career hat trick en route to a career-high seven points in a 5-4 road win over perennial LEC champion Keene State College this past Oct. 14. In scoring the game-winner against the Owls, she also broke the career record of eight game-winners.
In her career, Kallgren racked up 37 goals and 19 assists (two shy of the record) for 93 points.
The 2017 roster boasted a set of six senior athletes with one shared accomplishment: During their tenure with the Warriors, Kallgren, Katie Calnen, Katy Jankura, Tia LaFrance Boyce, Ashley Sanzaro, and Maddie LaRusso helped Eastern qualify for the LEC post-season tournament every season after the program had gone nine consecutive years without accomplishing this. Four-year players LaRusso and team co-captains Kallgren and Jankura were part of all four of those teams.
At Eastern, she “set a high standard for herself and, in doing so, helped to set a high standard for the team,” says head coach Christine Hutchison. According to the 12-year head coach, Kallgren’s success came because “she simply hated to be beat and would never quit.”
“When she came in, she was raw,” remembers Hutchison, “but she was also very aggressive and fast and talented and worked really hard. She progressed and got better every year. It was kind of a given that she was going to be that good,” admitted Hutchison, who added that Kallgren’s status as a future star crystalized “probably after her freshman year,” when she led the team in goals and points during her rookie season. In all, she topped the team in goals and points as both a freshman and sophomore and led or shared the team lead in assists as a junior and senior.
Her point total of 26 as a freshman was the third-highest in a season in program history and she followed that up as a sophomore with 12 goals (equaling the second most in a season ever) and 29 points, which equalled the 14-year-old season record.
Kallgren comes by her competitive nature honestly, as card games in her family have a history of becoming heated. For Kallgren, losses on the field are personal: “I feel like if I’m playing bad, I’m letting the team down. If we lose, I kind of take it to heart.” Coach Hutchison reports that this distain for losing “helped push this team to the next level.”
For an opportunity to play at the collegiate level, Kallgren had to take the initiative. Hutchison first saw her future record-holder’s aggression, speed, and willingness to improve at an Eastern field hockey clinic. For her part, Kallgren found a university where she could study Physical Education (later changing her major to Sport and Leisure Management) and test her field hockey talents at the next level. After her acceptance to Eastern, Kallgren’s expectations for herself were modest, to say the least. “I just wanted to play on the college team to kind of grow as a player,” said Kallgren, who actually listed her individual goal prior to her freshman season as wanting to “score a goal” (which took all of two games). I guess I was pretty successful.”
Kallgren’s uncanny success at the college level didn’t come by chance. Says Eastern strength and conditioning coach Michael Jones of Kallgren: “She was one of the hardest workers in the weight room. She wanted to be the best that she could be.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Hutchison, who reported that Kallgren was “the one to beat on the turf.” This strength and speed contributed to her aggressive playing style. A Physical Education minor with an Exercise Science concentration, Kallgren links her success to hard work and dedication to the program, a genuine love for field hockey, and her teammates. “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere in the beginning of my career if it wasn’t for the help of my teammates,” says Kallgren, who, as a freshman in 2014, was supported by a large and talented junior class. Together they provided the core of the 2015 team which would set program records for overall (13) and LEC (8) wins and captured two LEC playoff games to reach the conference title game.
While Kallgren racked up her share of individual milestones, her favorite firsts are those she shared with her teammates. Kallgren highlights the program’s first victory over Keene in 15 years, three of those goals (her second career hat trick) being credited to Kallgren. She also cites the 2-1 LEC semifinal home win over Fitchburg State during her sophomore season which led to the Warriors’ first LEC championship game appearance as one of the most exciting games of her career. Eastern scored twice in a span of four minutes in the second half of that game to advance. Brianna Passero scored the equalizer on the rebound of Kallgren’s penalty shot, and Kallgren notched her second career game-winner with 17 minutes left in regulation.
Kallgren’s successes were not limited to her time on the turf. Along with her dedication to her team and the weight room (she is pursuing a career in the strength and conditioning field), Kallgren was named to the NFHCA National Academic Squad and to the LEC All-Academic Team the maximum three times.
In all, Kallgren was named All-LEC in each of her four seasons (becoming the third four-time pick in program history), and capped her illustrious career when she became the only LEC player (second in program history) this year to be tapped to compete in the prestigious NFHCA (National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association) Division III Senior All-Star Game last month in Louisville.
Of the experience at the national all-star game, Kallgren noted the exciting opportunity to play with other talented student-athletes across the country. “I met a lot of really nice people, and it helped me go out of my comfort zone a bit and be bold.”
Qualities which obviously served well an overlooked player from a small high school who went on to big things on the college level.