Sierra Lange and Andras Levai were star-studded student-athletes during their past careers for GW, setting program records and dominating conference competition for softball and water polo, respectively.
The two are now graduate students at GW and joined the coaching staff of their former teams to share their experiences of accolades with the next generation of student-athletes rising through both athletic programs. The Hatchet spoke to softball Head Coach Chrissy Schoonmaker and water polo Head Coach Richard King to discuss the new additions of Lange and Levai as graduate assistant coaches.
Here’s what they had to say:
Andras Levai: Leading water polo scorer rises as natural leader
When Andras Levai first arrived from Hungary as a freshman international student in 2017, water polo gave him a chance to adjust to the new environment in GW, where King said he helped coach and lead his other teammates during his four years. Now Levai is preparing to take the next step in collegiate sports as water polo’s graduate assistant coach, where he will focus on team fitness training, like strength and conditioning exercises while also helping left-handed scorers.
“He’s been technically a coach of some guys that he’s played with for four years, and the 18-year-old version of Andras wouldn’t have been able to do it,” King said. “But his experience over the last four years, where he took on more and more of a leadership, role and a mentor role at the end of his playing career just made for a natural step over to the coaching staff.”
Levai is considered one of the program’s all-time greats under King’s leadership, ranked third among left-handers with 279 career goals and 205 assists and nestled in the top-five for steals and field blocks.
Levai picked up All-Conference nods in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and was named an All-American in the 2019 season. He received a spot on the Atlantic-10 All-Championship team in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and earned the title of Rookie of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Championship in the 2017 season.
King said because Levai played for two conference-winning championship teams, he could help the new players adapt to the intensity and expectations of a winning GW team. He said Levai would focus on coaching gamete strategy, like which angles to approach in the pool while driving to score.
“That’s the thing that I see as his biggest contribution is that he’s been part of the winning squad, and winning is a learned behavior,” King said. “And so he can help these guys get back in touch with our winning behaviors.”
Water polo has been one of the more consistent teams in GW Athletics with five-straight appearances at the MAWPC Championship. The team finished third in the championship last fall.
Levai led the Colonials to a .358 clip at the end of the season, and he earned him All-Conference Honors with 267 goals and 170 assists in the pool. Levai led the team with 45 goals, 27 assists and a .336 clip to put a stamp on his dominant role on the GW team.
“I think I think his experience in graduate school has been really important because the responsibility for learning really shifts between undergraduate and graduate, and so he’s learned how to be more prepared for class and how to be more interactive and take control of his learning,” King said. “And that’s helped him transition to being a teacher and a mentor now, instead of just a player.”
Sierra Lange: Softball star leading next generation of aces
On the field, former softball ace Sierra Lange prepares to shift from her standout pitching performance to train future arms on the mound as a graduate assistant coach under the leadership of Schoonmaker.
Lange was one of the most dominant players in GW’s softball program history, silencing opposing hitters with a 2.54 ERA throughout her career while collecting a program record 785 strikeouts and 94 wins over 829.1 innings and 158 appearances, 133 of which were starts.
“She’s an incredible human, she’s an incredible competitor and I think anybody on our roster is just really fortunate to be around her every day, including our coaching staff,” Schoonmaker said in an interview last Tuesday.
Schoonmaker, last season’s A-10 Coach of the Year, said she decided to hire Lange as an assistant coach because of her masterful performance on the mound and the experience she would bring to the team. She said the “wealth of experience” that Lange brings to the team will translate to the roster development as she looks to showcase her skills to new student-athletes looking to anchor the team’s pitching in the future.
“She’s a graduate assistant, so she can just help us in different areas,” Schoonmaker said. “Like sometimes in practice, she might be tossing a pitch. There might be times where she’s helping us throw warmups to outfielders, she’s done a little bit helping with tossing to the hitters right now.”
Lange could do it all on the softball diamond as a pitcher, hitter and fielder. Last season, she was the only player in the entire A-10 conference to maintain an earned run average under 3.00 and a batting average above .300 as a gold standard for pitchers and hitters, respectively.
She tossed a 2.40 ERA and 223 strikeouts during her final season, while also collecting an All-American nod and a nomination for the NCAA Woman of the Year. She was named A-10 Pitcher of the Week 10 times in her career and A-10 Pitcher of the Year in 2021 and 2022.
At the plate, Lange had a team-leading .377 batting average and a .578 slugging percentage while collecting 169 runs, 126 runs batted in and 241 hits. She ranks in the all-time top five at GW for all of those stats in addition to extra-base hits, total bases, on-base percentage and stolen bases.
Her other accolades include A-10 All-Conference and A-10 All-Championship team nods in 2019, 2021 and 2022. Off the field, she earned recognition a two-time A-10 All-Academic selection and earned a place on the Easton/National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar-Athlete list.
“I’m grateful. I’m grateful she’s here,” Schoonmaker said. “We’re really lucky. She’s a great addition to our staff and she’s going to be great and continue to be a great asset to this program.”