By Taylor Viles – Sports Editor
Following the resignation of former women’s basketball head coach Todd Montana in August, the Athletic Department began their search for a new leader for the program. Because there was no winter season, this process wasn’t rushed and the hiring team aimed to be methodical in their selection.
According to Director of Athletics Kristy Walter, the department began the search in November. “We received a high number of qualified candidates,” said Walter. “We [eventually] narrowed it down to our three top candidates and invited them to campus.”
Among those candidates was Kelley Sundberg, a graduate of Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Sundberg dominated the court during her collegiate career, averaging 26.5 points per game (PPG) over four years (2010-2014).
After graduating from Gannon, Sundberg stayed in Pennsylvania. Her first coaching experience was at Mansfield University. In 2018, she was hired by Seton Hill University where she stayed until she came to Lasell for her first head coaching job. The hiring announcement was made on March 2.
Two things drove her to apply for the job at Lasell. “I was looking for something closer to home and wanted to be a head coach and this definitely fit that mold,” she said.
Walter says one of the contributing factors to choosing the Connecticut native, was her ability to be a role model to student-athletes. Additionally, “her experience, her enthusiasm and passion for the game,” said Walter, on Sundberg’s ability to stand out. “She has a great vision and wants to build a program.”
Sundberg was an Exercise Science major at her Alma Mater but says she couldn’t find anything interesting to her in that area. “I didn’t find something I enjoyed as much as coaching and basketball,” she said.
It was at Seton Hill where Sundberg really began to take her coaching abilities to the next level and looked at head coach Mark Katarski as a role model. “He has a successful program and he has a lot of ownership to what he does…” said Sundberg. “He doesn’t do the thing that everybody else is doing just because everybody else is doing it. He is himself.” Sundberg says this is what she wants to do at Lasell. “I want to…[put my] stamp on the program,” she said.
Katarski said it was apparent Sundberg would eventually move on to be a Head Coach somewhere. She is a tremendous listener, according to Katarski, and has a knack for the truth. “She has a way of both speaking the truth and hearing the truth in a very unique way,” he said. “I think that our players grew to really respect that… It was the thing that I valued the most about her.”
Katarski expects Sundberg to thrive at Lasell as she did at Seton Hill because of her involvement on campus. She was on the university’s diversity and inclusion committee, she helped to start a wellness committee on campus, and she even taught a one-credit course. “This is somebody who is more than just the coach,” he said. “I think she’ll become, through her own efforts, a valued member of the athletic department and I think the university as a whole.”
At Lasell, Sundberg looks forward to bringing the women’s basketball team back to a competitive climate by utilizing her experience in the sport. She hopes to execute a faster pace of play while also focusing on a lockdown defensive gameplan.
The team hasn’t boasted a winning season since 2005-2006, and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015-2016, but with Sundberg’s leadership and youth, a possible return to excellence in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference is possible. It might not be next season, but “that is the direction we’re headed,” she said. “We want to be the top two or three competitors in the conference regularly.”