Sam Rubin

When Jackie Kisa ’19 joined the Yale field hockey team as a first year in the fall of 2015, she already had plenty of leadership experience under her belt. Four years later, captain and back Kisa has led the team through three straight wins in its 2018 season opening, its best start since 2010.

Hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Kisa captained the Princess Anne High School field hockey team — the 2014 Virginia state champions. Her club team Saints Hockey Rocks ranked second in the nation for the U16 division in 2013 and seventh in the U19 division in 2015. In her collegiate career so far, Kisa has played 53 games and started in 39, including all 17 games last year.

“She has a big presence on the field when it comes to defense,” forward Anissa Abboud ’21 said. “Even when you don’t physically feel her, when playing against her you still know she’s there because she’s so powerful and strong. She’s like a brick wall. She’s also an inspiration because she plays through everything no matter how hard she could get hit or kicked over.”

Kisa’s positive influence on the team was well-recognized last year when she received the team’s Coaches’ Award, which is given to the player who exemplifies principles, direction and persistence in pursuit of field hockey excellence at Yale.

Though the Virginia native’s inspiring presence off the field is indubitable, her role on the field as a strong defensive player cannot be overlooked. Her performance on Oct. 7 last year against Cornell marked one of the signature sequences of the season. The Bulldogs were trailing the Big Red 0–2 with less than two minutes left on the clock when Kisa hustled back on defense and made a spectacular diving save to prevent Cornell forward Krysten Mayers from scoring. Then, as time expired, Yale earned a penalty corner, and Kisa once again stepped up to plate to rip her second career goal into the back of the net and bring Yale to a 1–2 finish. When asked about memorable moments with Kisa, midfielder Imogen Davies ’21 immediately recalls the Cornell game.

“We were having an awful game and were down by quite a few goals, but she made a goal line diving save to prevent us going another goal down,” Davies said. “A few minutes later she scored a goal on a corner for us to reduce the deficit. It really showed the extent of her commitment to the team. She’s a really solid defender and has been a key player since I came onto the team.”

Last weekend’s game against Davidson College saw Kisa square off against her twin sister and Wildcat forward Kristen Kisa in a close game. Though the Bulldogs lost 1–2, they played a strong game overall, outshooting Davidson 17–11 and earning three more penalty corners than the Wildcats. In another comeback-that-came-too-late game, the Bulldogs were down two goals before Davies scored on a deflection off a shot by forward Olivia Levieux ’21.

“I’ve never played [my sister] before beyond playing 1V1 in the backyard, so it was exciting new ground,” Kisa said in a statement. “I definitely had a keener eye on what she was going to throw at us as a forward, so I felt like it was almost easier to play her simply because I understood her style of play more than a random opponent. It turned into a fun little rivalry and though I do believe we had the majority of the possession throughout the game, Davidson certainly capitalized on their opportunities (especially my sister throwing in a quick stick whack on my hand).”

Starting in her first year, Kisa has consistently played a major role on the team. In 2015, she appeared in 15 games, starting in 13. She made her debut on Sept. 5, 2015 in a 2–1 win against Sacred Heart, during which she made a pair of impressive defensive saves. This positive trend continued into Kisa’s sophomore year, when she played in 12 games and scored her first career goal in the team’s 7–4 win against Dartmouth. Junior year saw Kisa start in all 17 games, a career high for the then captain-elect. Kisa has started in all nine games so far this season and is looking forward to the second half of her last season in the blue and white.

“The Yale field hockey team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime,” Kisa reflected. “It has taught me how to fight for my goals and to back them up with hard work, how to lose with pride as well as humility, and most importantly, how to turn 20+ strangers into my best friends and family. I can only hope that we finish this season and my career as we had started it, with the dedication and the belief that anything is possible for those who are willing to work for it.”

Yale is at a 4–5 record with eight games left to play this season.

Lucy Liu | l.liu@yale.edu