On the bus ride back from a 10-1 loss at Wittenberg University her freshman year, Kate Dunne still recalls the “incredibly disheartening” emotion she felt as The College of Wooster field hockey team was in the midst of a 6-12 season.
Whether that loss and the uncharacteristic record was the motivation the talented, but young squad needed or just experience and time to adapt to the collegiate game, or a combination there of, Wooster made a “turnaround” into one of the best three-year stretches in program history, led by Dunne’s defensive prowess.
“(Kate) was fast, she was strong, she was highly-skilled, and highly smart,” remarked long-time Wooster head coach Brenda Meese. “If you look at how strong we were statistically during that time, the last three years she was there, those were some of our top years defensively. Without a doubt, she was the most highly thought of player by our opponents.”
That rings true as Dunne’s individual talent was evident even in that less than stellar 1998 season. She was voted the North Coast Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year, and the team’s improvement the next fall was directly related to the defense. Wooster dropped its goals per game average significantly from 2.78 to 1.17, with Dunne more comfortable taking on a leadership role in the backfield, and it returned to being a contender in the NCAC (second-place) while going 11-7 overall.
Dunne continued to excel individually as a junior as she nabbed second-team All-American honors from the coaches’ organization, and the team improved two more wins to 13-5 while finishing one-game out of first-place in the NCAC standings. The defense yielded 1.39 goals a contest.
That left Dunne and her senior teammates plenty of incentive for that elusive NCAC championship in 2001. Behind a defense that yielded less than one goal a game (0.95), including 10 shutouts, the Scots not only won the conference, they dominated it with a near-perfect record (11-1). Wooster put together a 10-game winning streak at one point and finished the regular season 16-3, and with it, earned a berth to the NCAA Div. III Championship field, a fitting end to a banner year. The NCAC title was the program’s first since 1986 and the 16 wins were the most since 1984.
While it is sometimes difficult to quantify the impact backs have in field hockey due to the lack of individual statistics at that position (she did score four goals and assist on five), all one has to do to understand how important Dunne was to the program is take a quick glance at the awards section of the media guide:
*First Wooster player to be first-team all-conference all four seasons (now one of two)
*Three-time NFHCA All-Great Lakes Region First Team
*2000 NCAC Defensive Player of the Year
*2001 NFHCA All-America First Team, the second to become a two-time All-American (now one of three)
Maybe the highest compliment paid to Dunne came from Meese when at the conclusion of the 2001 season she said, “She’s been a tremendous player. Our program has grown with her career.”
Meese may not have realized how prophetic that would be. In the time since Dunne helped re-establish the Scots’ winning tradition, they’ve won five of the last 10 NCAC championships.
As awesome as her athletic accomplishments were, Dunne was equally notable as a student at Wooster. An international relations major, she made the Dean’s List, served as president of the Women’s Athletic and Recreation Association, studied abroad in Spain, and volunteered with Planned Parenthood.
For her efforts on and off the field, Dunne received an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, and most impressive, was selected as the 2002 NCAA Woman of the Year for Ohio.
Always interested in the health arena, Dunne proceeded to get a nursing degree from Rush University Medical Center and a master’s in women’s health nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Married to fellow Wooster alum, Jordan Williams ’02, Dunne has worked as a nurse in a variety of settings, but currently is employed by the “Williams Boys,” she joked. She is currently a stay-at-home mom for their two sons, Tommy (2) and Mac (infant).