LHU FH: Snedden’s powerful journey through field hockey
By SAM KUPERMAN
For The Express
The Lock Haven University field hockey team just finished a pretty remarkable 2019 campaign. The Bald Eagles nearly upset national powerhouse St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 (A-10) Tournament Semifinals.
Friday’s heartbreaking loss surely invoked a number of raw reactions and emotions from the Lock Haven sideline at Crenshaw Field in Richmond, Virginia. If you surveyed that sideline even closer, you’d see an experienced player displaying more of the color purple on her uniform than anyone else on the field. And there’s a very meaningful reason for it.
“In high school I got a bunch of questions because I’ve always worn something purple,” Lock Haven’s Jackie Snedden said.
“Either it’d be a ribbon in my hair or the purple in my shoelaces that I have now. But I have always worn something that commemorated my mother. A lot of my friends would ask me ‘oh is purple your favorite color?,’ and I would say ‘no it’s actually my mom’s favorite color.'”
Snedden is a redshirt-junior multi-positional player for the Bald Eagles. The State College native has played field hockey since early on in middle school. In that time frame she has experienced a number of highs within the game, with this season for Lock Haven surely being among them. But she has also endured two horrific tragedies that would have a profound impact on anyone, let alone a then-teenager.
Snedden lost her mother Melita to a brain aneurysm when she was in eighth grade. Melita Snedden had overcome three brain aneurysms in her life already at this point. But one winter day after basketball practice, Jackie came home to find her mother dead.
“I just came home from practice the one day and I found my mom,” Snedden said. “It’s just really traumatic. There’s not enough words to put how it felt.”
Snedden had just started playing field hockey not too long before her mother passed away. While she had partaken in a variety of youth sports at that point, she found something different in being on a field hockey team. And at this point in her life, Snedden needed the game more than ever.
She says that initially it was hard to get back into playing sports after the sudden tragedy that had been struck upon her family. But once the whistle sounded, it allowed her to push reality to the side for just a little while.
“I think initially going into the first practices and the first games I was really upset and sad that my mom couldn’t watch me play,” Snedden said. “But after getting over that during the warmup and actually getting into the game and playing, it was a release and a way to focus on something that I know my mom loved to see me do, and something that I love to do.”
As Jackie Snedden continued her youth field hockey career, she pretty quickly realized it was a sport she wanted to pursue to the highest possible level. Her father, John, was supportive of her choice in sport right away and remains so to this day. He’s someone that Snedden calls her “super fan.”
But both Jackie and John soon lost someone else they had both grown very close to.
Dan Kriescher was an architect and contractor that was hired to work on an addition to the Snedden house. John had promised Melita that they’d get the addition done, and followed through by hiring Kriescher. Both Jackie and John had grown close to him during this time. But once again, tragedy struck.
“Just the one day (Kriescher) was up working on our addition and I went up with him,” Snedden said. “And the next thing you know he’s just dropped to the ground and was completely pale. He was turning purple.”
Snedden quickly provided CPR, called her dad and 9-1-1, but Kriescher didn’t make it. He passed away that day from a heart attack.
Kriescher had given Jackie a key chain with the name of his contracting company on it. She keeps this in her field hockey bag to this day.
Despite these two life-shaping events that Snedden experienced at a very early age, she continued her concentration in field hockey into high school. At State College Area High School, Snedden experienced both team and individual success. She was a 2016 Mid-Penn First Team All-Star, as well as a 2016 PIAA District IV AAA Champion
As she made a college choice, she emphasized the right academic fit in her decision-making process. Snedden also factored in playing at the highest level, even if that meant a limited amount of playing time for her.
The opportunity to play at Lock Haven University was exactly what she was looking for. LHU is a place where she had competed in offseason USA Futures tournaments, and knew friends that had studied at The Haven. It’s a call she’s glad she made.
“I really got to know the area,” Snedden says of Lock Haven. “I just really feel at home here.”
While at Lock Haven, Snedden has played on some competitive teams for head coach Pat Rudy. She was on the field for Rudy’s monumental 600th career victory, which came in a 2-0 triumph at Davidson in 2018. And she was a part of this year’s Lock Haven squad, that managed to tie for the second best record in the A-10 and nearly upset St. Joes.
Above all though, this LHU team represents family to Snedden.
“Our team puts in a lot of effort into everything that we do,” Snedden said. “Whenever I’m out on the field I feel a tremendous wave of support from my teammates. Even in practices we’re always joking around, but we’re really competitive with each other. I wouldn’t trade my teammates for the world, they’re awesome. I really truly feel like a part of a family with them.”
As Snedden continues her playing career at Lock Haven, she’s excited for what’s on the horizon.
While the Bald Eagles lose seven senior players from the 2019 group, they’ll return A-10 First team member and A-10 rookie of the year Jazmin Palma. The Argentinian duo of Palma and All-First Team goalie Joaquina Orlandini will play major roles once again in 2020. Joined back by A-10 All-Rookie Team member Amy Stevens and other key cogs, there’s a strong reason to believe that this special season was not an anomaly.
But as Snedden moves forward both athletically and academically at LHU, she continues to honor her mother by doing much more than just with the color purple.
Snedden started the Melita B. Snedden Fund in 2015 while in high school. Per the fund’s webpage, it is a “Charitable 501(c)(3) Fund via Centre Foundation focusing on Brain Aneurysm Awareness and making a difference in the lives of those who have suffered from Brain Aneurysms and Traumatic Brain Injuries.”
“My mom wanted to help everyone and anyone all the time,” Snedden said. “I wanted to do something that embodied her and something that I could do that would reflect my mom and help others the way that she would.”
Snedden is focused on spreading awareness about brain aneurysms. There are some bone-chilling facts about this traumatic brain injury. For example, a brain aneurysm occurs every 18 minutes, and one out of every 50 people in the United States get a brain aneurysm. Snedden is also confident in the strides being made in both prevention and treatment.
Even so, she says knowing the signs of a brain aneurysm is crucial.
“With something such as a traumatic brain injury or a brain aneurysm, symptoms are a severe headache, or a severe sudden headache, or a droop of the eyelid, or dizziness or sudden loss in vision,” Snedden said. “Nausea for sure as well as vomiting are certain signs that you can find, and even seizures are possible as well.”
Snedden has played in five games at LHU spread over the last two years. As she continues to progress on the field, she also is working hard in the classroom towards a degree in business administration and marketing. She’ll look to utilize that degree towards helping the Melita B. Snedden Fund grow.
But right now, she’s glad to be part of a sport that provides such a familial environment. It’s something that was there for Snedden in middle school when she needed it most, and it still holds true today.
“On every field hockey team I’ve ever been on, it’s always been like a family,” Snedden said.