A full ride to a successful Division I program, playing for some of the best coaches with some of the best field hockey players from around the country, seems like a dream come true, right? That dream quickly became a nightmare as it was all ripped away from Caylie McMahon in one ten-minute Zoom call.
Caylie McMahon worked her whole life to get recruited by a Division I field hockey program. Since stepping into goalie pads at a young age, Caylie was a natural. She spent weekends at tournaments around New England, attended various camps, and played at showcases around the country. As a Stowe, MA native, she played on the Nashoba Regional High School Varsity Field Hockey Team beginning her freshman year. Caylie started her career playing for Strikers Field Hockey Club, then moved to Northeast Elite, one of the top clubs in New England. Caylie worked hard and became one of the best field hockey goalies in the country.
During Caylie’s sophomore year of high school, she committed to Stanford University; it was a dream come true. Unfortunately, on July 7th, 2020, a month before her freshman season at Stanford, Caylie was asked to join her team on a Zoom call. In the middle of a pandemic, a team Zoom call is usually no big deal; Caylie assumed it was regarding the status of the upcoming season.
The athletic director and many other student-athletes were on the call. He (the athletic director) said all 11 sports on this call would no longer be varsity sports at Stanford following the 2020-2021 academic year. Caylie remembers, “It was a ten-minute call; he did not give us any information or give us the reasoning.” Fifteen minutes after hearing their program had been discontinued, the news went public, giving athletes no time to process the information.
The following day Caylie attended another meeting with a woman who was speaking on behalf of the athletic director. Excuses, including money, team culture, and anticipated unsuccessful seasons, were all given. Stanford even claimed, “No matter how much fundraising you do, you will never get the program reimbursed; the money will go to the athletic department.” The reasons given made it clear the athletic department did not understand the quality of the Stanford field hockey program.
Led by former Team USA members Tara Danielson, Patrick Cota, and Steve Danielson, the program successfully won the conference the past three out of four years. Additionally, the program has been nationally ranked since 2010, has won a total of 19 conference championships, and has made 17 NCAA appearances. The program has produced two Olympians, multiple U.S. Women’s national team athletes (two currently on the team), several Junior U.S. Women’s national team athletes, and brought in top recruits from around the world. Stanford field hockey was a force to be reckoned with.
“I was in such shock and had no idea what to do.” Initially, Caylie considered attending Stanford for her freshman year and playing one season, but once fall sports were canceled and classes moved online, she decided to take the year off. It was time to begin the recruiting process for the second time.
Caylie decided to spend the fall of 2020 playing in Europe and living in England with another recruit. Before moving to England, she made a recruiting trip and visited ACC schools. Caylie also had to reach out to coaches whom she’d initially denied offers from just a few years before.
Going through the recruiting process again was “definitely tough,” as Caylie described. Not only did lots of schools have less scholarship money to give out because of athletes with extra years of eligibility coming back to 5th year, but as a goalie, she faced additional challenges. Most teams take a goalie every other year since there is only one spot on the field. Caylie had to research and figure out which teams already recruited goalies and which teams had scholarship money to give away.
During her time in England, Caylie spent time training with the Surbiton Club, one of the oldest field hockey clubs globally and one of the most successful clubs in all of Europe. Caylie said one of the coaches at the University of Michigan was texting or calling her every day for three months straight while she was abroad. They worked hard to recruit Caylie, showing her just how important she was to the program. Finally, Caylie had a call with the academic advisor and was sold. The Michigan field hockey team has a fantastic team dynamic, and the school has a unique culture around sports. Caylie claimed, “going from a school that does not care about field hockey to a school that has the best facilities in the country, I felt really good about my decision.” Caylie McMahon is a member of the 2025 University of Michigan field hockey recruiting class and will play for Marcia Pankratz.
2019 Field Hockey Accomplishments:
U17 Junior National Team (tour team vs. Germany and Belgium), U19 National Futures Championship, U19 Stars and Stripes, Junior High-Performance Rise Camp, US Junior Rise National Team. MAX Field Hockey 1st Team All American, NFHCA 1st Team All American, Massachusetts Player of the Year, 1st Team All-New England, Conference All-Star, NFHCA All-Academic, Massachusetts D1 State Semi-Finalist, D1 Central MA Conference Champions, Massachusetts Academic Award, T&G Super Team, Best of 60 Selection. U19 National Indoor Tournament C Pool, U19 National Club Championship 5th Place.
2018 Field Hockey Accomplishments:
U17 Junior National Team (tour team vs. Uruguay), U16 National Futures, AAU Junior Olympics Gold Medalist, U16 Stars and Stripes, Junior National Camp, Winter Junior National Camp. MAX Field Hockey All-American 3rd Team, NFHCA All-Academic- Distinguished, Conference All-Star, MAX Field Hockey Pre-Season All American Watch List, Massachusetts D1 State Finalist, MAX Field Hockey All-Region New England. U19 National Indoor Tournament, U16 National Indoor Tournament, U19 Regional Club Championship, U16 Regional Club Championship.
Read about USA Field Hockey’s response to Stanford here.