Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 14 No. 4 | February 2022 15 “My dad has always been in my ear since I got into coaching,” said a chuckling Skiera. “He’d say ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you ended up at Virginia Tech,’ I always kind of shrugged it off, ACC coaching jobs don’t come along very often. I’d just tell him to leave me be,” she joked. A few years later, she stands. When the job came open as the Hokies’ head coach, Skiera knew she couldn’t let it get away. “When the opening came available last summer, just with my family history with the institution, and being raised a little Hokie kid in Lane Stadium at football games, just the familiarity with the tradition of sports here and the Hokie Nation…it all helped get me here.” Her first impressions as a Blacksburg resident have been nothing short of remarkable. “It’s unbelievable, I love it,” Skiera exclaimed. “I love how when you see somebody in the community and end up meeting them, in a restaurant, or a clinic we run, or another sporting event, you know you’re going to see them again,” she said when talking about the Virginia Tech community. “I love just running into new people and saying ‘I’ll see you around,’” she continued. “I love that small-town feel, I don’t think anything I’ve put into my GPS since I’ve moved here has said it’s been over two and a half miles away. “It’s a really connected community. I hope we’re here for a long time.” Skiera’s journey to Blacksburg has taken her across the country. After graduating as a four-time ACC regular season champion as a member of the Blue Devils from 2004-2007, she spent two seasons as a volunteer assistant at the Naval Academy from 2008-2009. Quickly, the phone came ringing again. This time, from out on the west coast, where Skiera spent the 2010 season as an assistant at UC Davis, before returning back to Navy to win two Patriot League championships in her two seasons with the Midshipmen from 20112012. After returning to her alma mater and serving as an assistant under head coach Kerstin Kimel during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Skiera then took a leap of faith. Leaving a place of familiarity, Skiera moved north to West Point, New York, where she took the open head coaching position at Army. At the time, the Black Knights were not competing at the varsity level, they were designated a club sport. Seven seasons later, and Skiera left it in a much better place than she found it. Not only did Skiera elevate the program to a varsity sport, she orchestrated the Black Knights’ best season in program history by recording a 14-5 mark, and left West Point after four consecutive winning seasons. Skiera cited a solid staff, recruiting, and administrative support as reasons for her success at Army, only sees the infrastructure at Virginia Tech as an advantage to her in this new chapter. “Certainly, we’re a program who wants to improve,” she admitted. “We were 5-11 last year, so a little bit of a rebuild. We want to be in the Final Four and make the NCAA Tournament every year,” Skiera continued, who’s program hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2018, the Hokies’ only appearance. “We’ve surrounded ourselves with great people here who share the belief in the program that I do. We’re going to recruit our butts off, try and outwork other schools, and find the right fit for us both culturally and athletically.” It doesn’t necessarily stop there either. She acknowledges that the Hokies have to build relationships. “We have to develop talent,” Skiera conveyed. “We have to develop relationships with those players that are here, luckily we walked into a great group of young women. It’s been a great fall getting to know them and forming a bond and trust with them.” Who are the young women that remain as the Kristen Skiera era prepares to get underway? The Hokies do lose its two leading goal scorers from a season ago in All-ACC talents Paige Petty and Emma Crooks, but they do bring back a potent offensive threat in graduate student Sarah Lubnow. The Falls Church, Virginia native tallied 23 goals a season ago, and is the returning scorer for a team that loses 43% of its goal production from a season ago. The production from Lubnow speaks for itself, with the attacker totaling 52 points, and 29 assists - the latter being good for thirdmost in a single season in Virginia Tech history. The Hokies welcome back Whitney Liebler as well on the offensive end after a phenomenal freshman season in which she recorded 21 points (14 goals, 7 assists). Skiera is high on the Williamsburg, Virginia product. “She’s outstanding,” the head coach raved. “She’s crafty, really fun to watch, she can do a lot of exciting things. She can throw behind the back and do some really creative stuff out on the field, I’ve really enjoyed working with her and she’s a really fun player to watch.” Tech fans certainly can’t forget about junior Paige Tyson either. The Pennsylvania native put up 13 points and 12 goals during the 2021 campaign, and is the Hokies’ other returning double-digit goal scorer. Tyson’s best performances came against Virginia in 2021 where she tallied a hat trick in both contests against the Cavaliers. “The kid doesn’t miss the cage,” Skiera gushed when talking about Tyson. “She’s an extremely great finisher, she uses her size really well, and she’s progressing well on the draw. She’s been really impressive.” Skiera Continued on page 16