Liberty University is ‘more than a field hockey program’: Lower Dauphin’s Avery Pollock, Hershey’s Riley Welsch

Lower Dauphin’s Avery Pollock, Class of 2024, is one of the most highly sought after high school field hockey players in the country.

Once the clock turned 12:01 am on June 15, the official day that Division I and II coaches could offer a formal deal to players, Avery started receiving emails from college coaches.

Avery and PA Revolution club teammate Riley Welsch, of Hershey, both announced Thursday that they verbally committed to Liberty University. Liberty is a Division I program that finished as runners up in the 2021 NCAA championship game.

“I’m so excited to play with Riley again,” Avery said. “We’ve only been playing together for the Revs for a short time. She’s an amazing player and she hustles; works hard like no other. Off the field, she’s such an amazing person; so kind to everyone. Who wouldn’t want a person like that as their teammate?”

The respect is mutual, Welsch said.

“I could not be any more excited for Avery,” Welsch said. “I have so much respect for her. I am such a fan of hers. I cannot wait to play in college with her. It’s going to be so much fun. I think we’re going to have a really good time at Liberty.”

The recruiting process can become daunting for both players and parents, said Jamie Pollock, Co-Founder of PA Revolution, and Avery’s mom. Avery fielded about 15 to 17 phone calls on June 15 and dozens of emails, she said.

“It was good and then it was hard,” Jamie said. “You hear how they have been watching her for years, but then it ultimately comes down to relationships. Avery went to four clinics there, plus she’s seen the Liberty team and staff everywhere. She had to turn people down via emails and text messages.”

The rising Lower Dauphin junior said Liberty wasn’t initially her first choice. But, then over time, she said she fell in love with the campus, the coaches, and the field.

“Every time I go down there, I’ve grown to love it more,” she said. “It slowly became the top of my list. I went to a camp in April and by that time, I had gotten to learn more about Liberty, and not just field hockey. I learned a lot about the mental side, which other programs didn’t talk about. When June 15 rolled around, I felt that I had all the information.”

And, because of that, she said she knew that Liberty was her choice.

“Other programs, I barely knew anything about and what they offered outside of field hockey,” Avery said. “Even before I committed, I felt that if I didn’t go to Liberty that they would still love me and care for me. They have really big hearts for everyone. I feel that I’m already a part of the Liberty family and it’s only been one day since I’ve committed.”

The Falcons coaching staff, led by Linda Kreiser, is “thrilled” for Avery, Jamie said.

“They are ready for the 2022 season,” she said.

Welsch was also contacted by a number of college coaches on Wednesday. But, unlike Avery, the Hershey Trojan said Liberty had been her top pick all along.

“Coach Nikki texted to schedule a call,” Welsch said. “And, then we talked for a while that morning. Later that day, we had a follow up call. She offered me a spot on the team. The next day, I called her back and said I would love to be part of Liberty field hockey.”

Welsch said she had “a feeling” that Liberty was going to contact her. She said Jamie and Brandy Michael, who try to stay in contact with coaches at all levels, DI, DII, and DIII, try to establish realistic expectations for their players’ and their desires.

“She told me of their interest in me,” Welsch said. “I was kind of expecting it, but I was wondering if it was really going to happen. I was feeling nervous and anxious and excited all at the same time. These schools are trying to get their top players. And, I’m just glad that Liberty chose me as one of them.”

Hershey’s Riley Welsch is pictured in this file photo battling to take control of the ball. September 20, 2021. Vicki Vellios Briner | Special to PennLiveVicki Vellios Briner | Special to PennLive

Welsch has been spending a lot of time sharpening her skills, also attending as many clinics as possible throughout the spring, she said.

Welsch and her mom, Abbey Amar, were saying a lot of prayers before June 15, she said.

“We were just praying for a good outcome,” Welsch said. “I was hoping all along that Liberty was going to call me. They have been my No. 1 since the spring when I visited the campus. It felt like home immediately. I felt it in my heart. I had a spiritual feeling when I stepped on campus. I love the coaches. They have such a passion and vision for this team; such a highly competitive hockey team with spiritual values.”

It has been a busy week for Welsch, she said. She attended a clinic on Monday at Palmyra hosted by PA Revolution. Two days later, she communicated with college coaches. On Thursday, she accepted a spot on Liberty’s roster for 2024.

And, on Saturday, her late step-dad, USA Men’s Field Hockey Olympian, former US Women’s National Team coach and manager Larry Amar is being posthumously honored at USA Field Hockey’s 100th Anniversary and Hall of Fame Celebration in Philadelphia.

“We are so excited to honor Larry this weekend,” Welsch said. “I know that he would be so proud of my decision and he would be really happy about where I am going. It’s a special week that we can celebrate each other at the same time.”

On Sunday, USA Field Hockey and Amar’s family and friends are hosting LA3 Memorial Field Hockey Clinic at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken. All proceeds from the clinic will benefit the Amar family, Abbey, Riley, and Eli.

“At Liberty, it’s more than just field hockey,” Welsch said. “They’re always going to look at me and my teammates as humans before a player. I know I’m going to be cared for and loved for there so much.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.