DURHAM, N.C. - It is said that the apple does not fall far from the tree and in the case of Duke alumna Beth Urdahl and her daughter, freshman field hockey player Sarah Urdahl, this old axiom rings true. Sarah recently completed her first season as a forward for the Duke field hockey team, competing in 17 games and tallying one goal and two assists, while her mother, who graduated 27 years earlier, protected the net as a goalkeeper for the Blue Devils.
Beth Bowen Urdahl graduated from Duke in 1985 with a degree in engineering, while also etching her name into the record books as a goalkeeper for the field hockey team. Beth currently ranks ninth on the programs all-time career saves list with 167, and sixth on the career save percentage list at .827. During her senior year, Beth led her team to a 16-5 record while posting a 0.95 goals against average and 101 saves.
Over 25 years later, Beth still roams the sidelines, this time as a spectator watching her daughter wear the same Duke blue. After watching her daughter and the Blue Devils play this fall, Beth realizes that the game has changed since she played.
"We did not have preseason; we did not practice throughout the year," Beth said. "Recruiting was pretty different back then. I do not know if anyone in my class was recruited - we got into Duke then went to meet with Coach [Jacki] Silar and told her we wanted to play. Things have really changed since then."
During her time at Duke, head coach Jacki Silar, who was also serving as an assistant for the women's basketball team, asked Beth to work the clock and the scoreboard for basketball games. Beth was confident that she could help because of her experience playing high school basketball, but was still intimidated by one particular incident during a matchup with Maryland.
"I have a vivid memory of the Maryland coach staring me down," Urdahl said. "Duke was about to beat them, and every second counted. It was clear that she wanted to make sure I had everything right. In the end Maryland did win, but that one point, I do not think I will ever forget."
After graduating from Duke with a degree in mechanical engineering, Beth moved to Cambridge, Mass., to earn her MBA from the Harvard Business School before settling down and raising Sarah in Houston, Texas. As Sarah was growing up, her mother served as a real-world example that anything is possible and that Sarah could be whatever she wanted to be.
Sarah progressed through high school at St. John's, receiving accolades in both academics and athletics, and when she began looking at colleges, Beth did her best to allow Sarah to make her own decision. Although she tried to prevent her bias from entering the equation, Beth was excited when Sarah chose to come to Duke.
"I tried to be a good mom and let her make the decision," Beth said. "We looked at a lot of places. I am an engineer so we analyzed all the alternatives, but in the end, she knew that Duke was a great fit for her. She made the decision, and I tried my best to stay out of it, but of course I was thrilled when she chose Duke."
In addition to following her in mother's footsteps on the field at Jack Katz Stadium, Sarah also works with the women's basketball team in the role of social media coordinator where she keeps fans updated on breaking news and scores via Twitter and Facebook. Sarah volunteered to help the team after a successful high school basketball career and hearing stories from her mother about the joys of working with the team.
"I thought it would be neat to work with a team that I have always cared about," Sarah said. "I have played basketball my entire life, and even if I don't get to play basketball here, I love to help out in any way. It's been really neat to watch such great athletes on the court."
Seeing her mother graduate from Duke and become a successful engineer gave Sarah the confidence that she too could be successful in whatever she wanted to do. With this confidence, Sarah, a recently named Baldwin Scholar, has decided to study mechanical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering with hopes of one day working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston, Texas.
"With [my mom] being an engineer and her being able to be so successful here made it more obvious that I could do the same thing," Sarah said. "Having such a great role model in my life is truly amazing, especially having a woman engineer be so successful is a little rare, especially at her time. I have everything to thank her for."
Although there are many differences at Duke between when mother and daughter attended, a few familiar faces still roam the hallways including team doctor Dr. Debbie Squire and Silar, who now serves as Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Adminstrator.
"I think it's neat across generations that so many people are at Duke," Sarah said. "It is nice to have those connections here."
Beth has always prided herself on being there for her daughter and this commitment has continued despite her daughter now living over 1,100 miles away. Beth was on campus when her daughter played in her first collegiate game and when she scored her first collegiate goal.
"When she walked onto the Duke field for the pregame announcements for the first time, I was so proud that she had dreamed of standing in that line of athletes and she had made it," Beth said. "It was also a moving sight to look past the girls and see the old grass field where we used to play and I couldn't help but think back to my experience at Duke and how important that experience has been in my adult life."
BDN+ Access users
returning customers, please login here.