Former Guilderland star turns injury into blessing

Cietek stars in her one season at New Haven
The decision to leave Villanova and play a final season at New Haven paid off for Guilderland graduate Kendall Cietek.
The decision to leave Villanova and play a final season at New Haven paid off for Guilderland graduate Kendall Cietek.
Kendall Cietek missed out on her freshmen lacrosse season at Villanova University while recovering from a knee injury. As difficult as it was to sit and watch, the former Guilderland High School star today calls it a blessing in disguise.
Those months on the mend from a torn ACL opened the door for the another season, another chance to shine, and Cietek certainly did that as a graduate student this spring while helping the University of New Haven go farther than ever before.
“It’s a big decision you have to make,” said Cietek, who earned a chemical engineering degree from Villanova in 2016 before pursuing a master of business administration degree at New Haven. “Do you start work and start making money, or do you take a hit and have more loans?”
Cietek opted for the loans and a new college a little closer to her Schenectady home, and a fresh start with a lacrosse stick in her hands.
“I love lacrosse, and I had a season of eligibility left,” Cietek said. “It’s always been a huge part of my life. Not a lot of people have that opportunity. I figured I would regret it if I didn’t do it, plus, I felt I had more to accomplish.”
Cietek finished up her collegiate playing career last Saturday by scoring a goal in the North’s 11-5 win over the South in the prestigious Division II Senior All-Star game in Maryland. Before that, she was named a second-team Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-American after piling up 61 goals, 20 assists, 57 draw controls and 27 ground balls.
“I knew coming in this would be my last year playing lacrosse,” Cietek said. “I set the bar high. I set goals and met just about all of them. When I had a bad game I’d look at my list and think, ‘I have to go after it.’ That pushed me toward my goals.”
Cietek didn’t play as much as she thought she would in the three years after her right knee healed.
“A lot of kids would have rode it out that last year,” New Haven coach Jen Fallon said. “I respect her for wanting to make more of it. I’m glad she had the courage. She came here to have an experience, and she had that. I believe what she had hoped for when she left Villanova, she got.”
Cietek got plenty in terms of goals and honors at New Haven, yet gave back, as well.
“The first thing she wanted to do was help the freshmen transition in,” Fallon said. “She tutored them in chemistry. She took kids out to dinner. She went way beyond.”
In addition to being a leader, making team history was among those goals she set out for herself, and New Haven did that with its first-ever NCAA Division II tournament win against Mercy. Cietek had three goals and an assist in that 12-10 victory, which was followed by an 18-1 quarterfinal loss to Northeast-10 rival Adelphi, the eventual national champion. Cietek’s Chargers finished 15-5 overall — one win shy of the school record — and 11-2 in the NE-10.
“I wanted to play for a national championship and applied to schools [LeMoyne, Franklin Pierce, Bentley, New Haven] that were ranked high,” said Cietek, a team captain. “New Haven ended up being the right fit, and although we didn’t go quite as far as I had hoped, it was a season I am never going to forget.”
Cietek had more points (10 on nine goals and an assist) in her first two games at New Haven than she did in her Villanova career. There she started 10 games and played in 36, accumulating eight points on six goals and a pair of assists.
“You do all that work and don’t see it come to fruition, that had to be hard,” Fallon said. “She needed to feel that everything she put into her sport actually mattered.”
Cietek made the dean’s list in her first two semesters at New Haven, while her on-field exploits this spring led to first-team NE-10 and North Region IWLCA honors. She was the only player unanimously named to the NE-10 all-star team.
“All the years I put in paid off,” the 23-year-old said.
Cietek’s 61 goals are the third-most for one season in the history of New Haven women’s lacrosse, which dates back to 2001, and her 81 points are eighth on the university’s all-time single-season list. She scored a season-high six goals in an 18-13 win against Franklin Pierce and notched five goals in three other triumphs, including one memorable one against Stonehill.
“The Stonehill game stands out,” Cietek said. “They’re one of our rivals in the conference and we were down three goals late in the game. They were giving it to us and I had to step up. I scored the last three goals to tie the game and we won in double overtime [12-11].”
Cietek followed that game with her six-goal, seven-point performance against Franklin Pierce, and for those two efforts was selected the NE-10 Player of the Week for the week ending April 2.
“There are so many intangibles with Kendall. She’s such a dynamic and unique kid,” Fallon said. “The numbers speak for themselves. She was such a catalyst, but what she brought as an individual and as a leader, I couldn’t ask for anything more in that one year.”
Cietek’s twin sister Mackenzie also played lacrosse at Villanova and in 2016 earned a degree in political science. She has remained at Villanova and is currently studying for a law degree.
“My twin sister is still there, and I could have stayed,” Kendall Cietek said. “It was a hard decision to leave, but I look at it now as the best decision of my life.” 
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schilt at 395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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