‘I’m happy I found my home at Lock Haven,’ Mechanicsburg’s Gracyn Catalano shares her recruiting journey to a Division I program

Deciding where to attend college was a character-building experience for Gracyn Catalano.

The Mechanicsburg forward is one more player on the senior-heavy Wildcat’s team to commit to a program.

“I’m happy I found my home at Lock Haven,” the Division I commit said. “There were some schools that almost didn’t give me a chance. That’s what was different about Lock Haven. They gave me a chance.”

Whether Catalano is on or off, she plays every game with heart. She’s one of many good reasons other teams have come to see Mechanicsburg as a threat. The ‘Cats are in District 3, the Mid-Penn Conference Keystone Division. It’s one of the toughest divisions in Pennsylvania.

Mechanicsburg finished its regular season No. 4 in Class 2A with a record of 13-3-1. As a starter, Catalano contributed toward Mechanicsburg tying Lower Dauphin in 2022 for second in Keystone. She also played a part in helping the ‘Cats achieve a deep postseason run in 2021, which included defeating Palmyra.

Catalano’s motivation stems from channeling disappointment and turning it into trusting her choices.

“There was a school that totally acted very rude to me,” Catalano said. “They invited me on a visit and then said I wasn’t good enough. The email they sent just made me feel that I wasn’t good enough as a player.”

The recruiting process can be a long one. Catalano, who doesn’t carry a grudge about how the other school managed her visit, said she found all that she wants at Lock Haven. The campus is the right size. The surrounding is beautiful. And the coach seemingly already brings out the best in her, she said.

“I started off going to a lot of camps and clinics to try to narrow down what I wanted,” Catalano said. “Our team went to Lock Haven’s team camp my freshman year of high school. I was like, ‘wow, this place is pretty nice.’ While I was going through the recruiting process, it didn’t really occur to me how hard it was going to be to go through it.”

One of Catalano’s honest mistakes was thinking recruiting only happened to other players. But Lock Haven’s coach, as well as Mechanicsburg’s head coach Tonya Brown, had a positive impact on how Catalano saw herself.

This summer Catalano, who is majoring in political science, was visiting Lock Haven at another team camp. She said she met with Coach Pat Rudy on the final day. That’s when it was made official that she would play at Lock.  

“We agreed that this was where I was going to commit to college,” she said. “I called my mom and dad immediately. I had a joint phone call with them. I started calling all of my friends. I started crying because I was so happy.”

Catalano joined the list of seven seniors at Mechanicsburg who are playing field hockey in college. Cam Standish is playing at Ohio State. Casey Tyrrell is playing at Appalachian State. Sydney Aylward is playing at Temple. Natalie Wilson is playing at LaSalle. Anne Manning is playing at Saint Joseph’s. And Lauren Mark is playing at Lynchburg.

“She is so good inside the circle, with little touches, deflections, pulling the ball off the goalie’s pads, finding an open player when needed,” Brown said. “Like most of our team, she passes the ball really well inside that circle.”

Catalano is an instinctive player, who can sense where her teammates are without having to search for an option, Brown said.

“But most importantly, the team comes first,” Brown said. “(Gracyn) has been a great captain by putting her teammates first.”

One of her shining moments that she said she will cherish from senior year: beating Lower Dauphin. She still replays the 3-2 victory in her mind.

“I remember going up to my parents, and saying, ‘oh my gosh, we just beat Lower Dauphin,’” Catalano said. “How did that just happen? We’ve been playing them since 8th grade. We tied them that year. We haven’t been able to beat them in high school. And we were able to come out with a victory. It felt so good.”

Pumped for the postseason, Catalano said she sees good things coming the ‘Cats way.

“It feels so good,” she said. “Our team’s been playing together for such a long time. And, to see it work out for us in the end, makes it feel that much better. We started out in rec and played club together. Now it’s an end of an era, and we’re trying to go out with a bang.”

She continued: “I think we have a bunch of very good freshman and sophomores coming up. Next year we’re going to be very young because we are senior heavy, but they are all very good players. A couple of them are getting experience in the game, which will help. And they’re going to have good leaders next year, too. They’ll have room to grow and carry on our program.”

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