Lacrosse never over for Bethel Park’s Quinlisk
While Heather Quinlisk pursues her doctorate in educational leadership at Delaware Valley College this fall, the Bethel Park native puts her lacrosse stick aside. The move, she hopes, is only temporary.
“This is the fourth time that I’ve thought my lacrosse career was over, but I’m not convinced that I’ve seen my last days on the field. I sure hope I haven’t.”
Colleges would be foolish not to hire Quinlisk. After she earns her Ed.D, her goal is to work in higher education.
At that level, Quinlisk has already enjoyed success. In fact, she was named Division II National Coach of the Year after leading Loyola University to consecutive championship tournament appearances.
A coach in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League, which has a Division I and Division II bracket, Quinlisk guided the Greyhounds the last two seasons. In 2013, the Division II club team upset the defending champion, North Carolina, and eventually finished fourth, losing to Duke in the consolation contest. In 2014, seeded fourth, the Greyhounds beat the Blue Devils for third place. Quinlisk noted how her squad rose above its national seeding and beat Duke with a convincing win.
Victory was her focus as was making sure her players garnered recognition, not she. Two of her players merited All-America laurels on first team and three more gained second-team honors.
“I didn’t have too much of a reaction I don’t think,” she said regarding her being named COTY. “I was more focused on my players being named All-Americans.” However, Quinlisk acknowledged her own award was ‘pretty cool.’
“Definitely not what I expected when I first started coaching,” she added.
Nothing regarding lacrosse is what Quinlisk had expected. When she began playing, she competed on a boys’ team. She was in seventh grade and the only program was through the Bethel Park Recreation Department. “Since there weren’t enough girls interested, they let me play with the boys,” she explained. When she joined the high school team in ninth grade, lacrosse was still considered a club sport and not sanctioned by the school.
So Quinlisk and her teammates took matters into their own hands. They dressed in their uniforms and carried their sticks to a school board meeting. “To officially request sanctioning,” said Quinlisk. “The board approved that day,” she added proudly.
“Playing at Bethel Park definitely made a huge impact on my career and opened doors I never expected would open,” said the daughter of John and Linda Quinlisk.
Quinlisk helped open doors for her siblings as Matt played lacrosse for Bethel Park until graduating in 2008. Her sister, Shannon, a 2004 graduate, competed on the fencing team. Quinlisk also has a brother, Mike, a 2002 BP grad who currently lives in Philadelphia.
After graduating in 2006, Waynesburg opened its doors to Quinlisk and her idea of starting a lacrosse team once she approached the administrators. Since the school was looking to add another women’s sport, they agreed and Quinlisk’s career continued. She served as team captain.
Prior to Waynesburg creating a team, Quinlisk said, she thought her lacrosse career was over. Upon her graduation in 2010, those thoughts surfaced again. However, West Virginia Wesleyan College offered her a graduate assistantship. The door to her coaching career swung open.
With her MBA in hand and two seasons of coaching under her belt, she moved to Baltimore in 2012 and began working for US Lacrosse, the national governing body for the sport. While laboring in the US Lacrosse communications and membership department, Quinlisk also learned about the coaching vacancy at Loyola. She applied apprehensively.
“I was nervous at first, knowing that the Maryland style of play is much different than Western Pennsylvania,” she said. “However, I quickly adjusted and continued to learn more each season.”
Each year, interest in lacrosse increases. Quinlisk said that she is excited about the growth of the sport, particularly in Western Pennsylvania. Her work with US Lacrosse has afforded her a ‘unique perspective’ on how the game is affecting different states and regions.
“Lacrosse is catching on and participation numbers have skyrocketed in the past decade. In order to sustain this growth, we need coaches and officials who are passionate about the game and committed to excellence. Where they are more committed to their own education and improvement, the game flourishes best,” she said.