As a girl growing up in Charleston, W.Va., Natalie Zitek ’05 had to travel long distances several times each week for the chance to play hockey. When she heard about Gilmour’s newly established girls prep team, the school’s academic reputation and the fact that the school had a rink on campus, she jumped at the chance.
Natalie ultimately chose Gilmour because it afforded her the opportunity to focus her time equally on academics and hockey while still allowing her time to be a typical high school student. During her senior year, she was recruited by Division III Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, where she eventually won three conference championships and made three NCAA tournament appearances, advancing to the Final Four once and finishing the season as runner-up.
In August 2009, she returned to Gilmour to serve as an assistant coach under her former coach, Rick Filighera, and as a dorm proctor. She held those positions for the next six years before taking an assistant coaching position with the new varsity program at Division III Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. This past season, she was named the program’s head coach
As a head coach, Natalie loves focusing on player development throughout the season with the goal of advancing to the conference championships and beyond. She stressed that every game is important.
Asked to speak from a college coach’s perspective about the advantages a Gilmour prep hockey player has, she cited the access to ice team as a huge differentiator. She said, “With two rinks, players have the opportunity to skate on open ice and work on their individual game. Athletes are developed at home and these kids have all the resources they need.” She continued, “I also trust these athletes have great time management skills and know the importance of their academics.”
Natalie is enjoying this latest chapter in her journey. She said, “I’ve really grown to love Providence. I love the diversity and it’s a great place for art, music and, my personal favorite, food!”