RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On Halloween, the only thing that threw fear into Felician College freshman Kristen Keller (Reading, Pa./Schuylkill Valley) was her agenda for the day.
Keller is a two-sport student-athlete at Felician, and Oct. 31, it worked out that the women's bowling and women's volleyball teams would be competing on the same day – and fewer than 40 miles apart. With the help of understanding coaches and her mother as her driver, Keller started both events. She became the first female Golden Falcon to participate in two intercollegiate varsity sports on the same day.
NCAA women's volleyball participates in the fall season. Bowling is technically a winter sport, but began practice on Oct. 2 and competition two weeks later. For just over a month, Keller had at least two days per week where she attended practice for both sports.
"I love doing both sports so much," Keller said. "My heart is really split between the two. Putting in the time for double practices is stressful, but at game time, I love it."
Keller awoke that Friday at 6 a.m., and went to nearby Lyndhurst Recreation Complex to get her ankle taped by an athletic trainer during a Felician women's soccer practice. The bowling team departed from Felician's Rutherford campus at 7:15 en route to Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick for the Fairleigh Dickinson University Jamboree. It was just the second tournament ever for the first-year program.
The FDU tournament was a three-day event, and Friday's schedule called for five traditional team games beginning in the late morning. Felician bowling coach Andrew Toriello allowed Keller to start in the first three games, then depart with her mother to make the 50-minute ride back to Rutherford to prepare for the Golden Falcons' 7 p.m. home volleyball match against Dominican (N.Y.) College.
Keller bowled 539 (203-179-157) for the three matches, with Felician winning two of them.
"Most colleges look down on a dual-sport athlete, but I see it as someone who wants a challenge and can handle pressure," Toriello said. "Kristen told us up front that she was looking to be able to participate in both sports. I am a firm believer in the positive role of athletics in a college setting, and I know Kristen makes a big impact on the court as well as the lanes. I made her aware from the start that we would find ways for her to participate in both sports, and we did that."
After a brief meal with her mother, Keller made it to the locker room at Felician's Job Gymnasium in time to prepare for the volleyball match and participate in pre-match warm-ups. She was inserted into the starting line-up at opposite hitter, and recorded two kills, two blocks and two assists in the Golden Falcons' 3-0 loss.
"It wasn't my best match, but I tried my best," Keller said. "It was Halloween, so I tried to feed off of the energy on campus. After it was all over, I was at that point where I was so tired that I actually couldn't sleep."
But Keller's weekend was just beginning. The schedule was not as forgiving on Saturday, with Day 2 of the bowling tournament conflicting with volleyball's 1 p.m home match against the University of the Sciences. With the volleyball team playing a conference opponent and celebrating Senior Day, Keller spent her day with that team. She turned in two kills, two blocks and four digs in a three-set loss. She re-joined the bowling team on Sunday at Carolier to help the Golden Falcons go 1-2 in a trio of best-of-7 Baker matches.
"I came to Felician determined to do two sports, and I don't regret it," Keller said. "That day and that weekend really showed me that I can do it. It's been tougher than I thought, but it's doable, and I'm keeping my grades up. I would never advise anyone not to do this if they have the opportunity, as long as they are committed."
Keller completed the volleyball season with averages of 1.24 kills, 1.63 digs and 0.34 blocks per set. With three bowling tournaments left on the 2014-15 slate, she is averaging 180.4, tied for the team lead.
The only other Felician student-athlete to participate in two intercollegiate sports on the same day was Jordan Tackett (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford), who turned the trick in men's golf and baseball on Apr. 8 and 9, 2014.