Liz Brode Harris graduated from Lehigh in 1995 as one of the League’s most decorated women lacrosse players.
But when she came to Lehigh in the fall of 1991 from the Springside School Philadelphia, the first sport she suited up for was field hockey.
“At Springside I was so accustomed to playing three sports that two seemed incredibly manageable at the collegiate level," Brode Harris said. “The girls at Springside did everything. We did the performing arts and sports and we had leadership roles. I was so accustomed to it that moving on to college I expected I’d be able to manage it.”
So when Brode Harris came to Lehigh, the transition was relatively easy. It was made simpler because the coach of her two chosen sports at Lehigh was, in fact, the same person.
“Having the same coach for two sports was not unusual during that era,” said Brode Harris, who graduated in 1995. “It was a transitional time when people were starting to move away from two sports, but it wasn’t like it is now with the off-season commitments.”
After watching the program lose three coaches in as many years, Brode Harris jumped at the opportunity to take over the Lehigh program that yearned for stability and success.
Most of Brode Harris’ notoriety at Lehigh came from her accomplishments with the lacrosse team. She was named first-team All-League in her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons and earned second-team All-American honors as a junior and senior.
In her final two seasons, Lehigh went 21-12 overall and 7-1 in League play, including a 4-0 run in 1994 to claim the League title.
She capped off her career as the League’s Offensive Player of the Year in 1995.
Despite the individual accolades, Brode Harris always worked to make her teammates better. In lacrosse, she played with another Lehigh and Patriot League all-time great in Jill Altschuler.
“I think I was a supporting player in a lot of ways in both sports,” she said. “A supporting player in field hockey is less flashy than that in lacrosse. It’s partly the nature of the sport. I could be a great assist to Jill and I could also score myself, but I took pride in the type of defender I was in lacrosse. By the time I was a senior, I felt like I was as strong in field hockey as I was in lacrosse.”
After her successful playing career at Lehigh, Brode Harris joined the lacrosse coaching staff at Harvard for one season before returning to Bethlehem to work in her alma mater’s admissions office. She eventually returned to Springside and served in a number of posititions, including head lacrosse coach and athletics director, before stepping down in 2001 for the birth of her first child and to focus on law school at Temple University.
At that point, she never could have pictured herself coming back to coach.
“No, definitely not,” Brode Harris said with a chuckle. “I knew eventually I’d go to law school. But then I started coaching at Harvard and really I’ve been coaching ever since. It’s just ended up becoming a passion.”
She found herself back as Lehigh in time for the 2005 lacrosse season. After watching the program lose three coaches in as many years, Brode Harris jumped at the opportunity to take over the Lehigh program that yearned for stability and success. Eight months pregnant, she interviewed for and was offered the job.
“I had a glimpse of what was happening with the program the way many of the alums didn’t. It really bothered me,” she said. “It drove me crazy that a program that was strong when I was there was now ranked near the bottom of Division I. That was unacceptable to me.”
A year after Lehigh finished 1-5 and at the bottom of the Patriot League standings, Brode Harris coached the club to a 3-3 League mark and the fourth seed in the League tournament in her first season. Two years later, Lehigh made the League tournament as the second seed. Brode Harris was named Coach of the Year.
Brode Harris stepped down after the 2008 season to focus more on family. She was a single parent of two young children, and she wanted to direct more of her attention to being a mother.
“She’s one of my best friends,” Brode Harris said of current Lehigh coach Jill Redfern, who led the team to the 2010 regular-season title and the tournament’s top seed. “She has done an incredible job with the program. I think the two of us got the program back on track. She has done an amazing job taking the momentum and moving forward in a really powerful way.”
The program’s revival and progress, which includes star student-athletes such as Lauren Dykstra and Kelly Draper, can be traced back to Brode Harris’ four-year coaching stint.
“That program is really on the map right now,” she said “and it’s very exciting.”