As a senior at Grafton High School, Kathryn Mason may have not known the proverb "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" but she was faced with that decision as she chose which college to attend. Fortunately for the Johnson & Wales University women's ice hockey team, Mason's decision to take the gamble worked out.
In the spring of 2016, Mason had to decide between a guaranteed spot at Nichols College or trying out for the JWU team with no assurance she would be on the team. Not only did she make the team, but she wrapped up her career this year as the program's all-time leading scorer.
"I was looking at UMass Amherst, URI and Nichols," Mason said. " I was supposed to go to Nichols, but decided to take a tour of JWU. I toured the Downcity campus and really fell in love with the atmosphere. I hadn't lived in a city before and liked the idea of it."
After her visit, Mason emailed Maria Lewis who had just launched the Johnson & Wales program the year prior. Needing to fill out the roster, Lewis let Mason know that she had all of her recruits for the year, but Mason could try out for the team in October. After seeing Mason play over the summer with her Minutemen Lady Flames team, Lewis told Mason that she would have to pick it up if she wanted to make the team.
Dedicating herself to hockey was nothing new to Mason. She had played soccer, tennis and took a turn at gymnastics, but hockey was her love from an early age.
"When I was five-years-old I came home from school with a flyer and told my parents that I wanted to play hockey," Mason noted "There was also a kid in class that had just started to play and I had a crush on him so I wanted to play hockey. My mom thought I was talking about figure skating."
One problem was Mason didn't know how to skate so her parents enrolled her in a learn-to-skate program. Once she could skate, Mason joined an all-boys team in Worcester, where the closest rink was located. When she was 12 she joined an all-girls team with her father, Dave, serving as coach. He was a consistent presence at the rink at all of her games throughout her collegiate career. A successful player on her high school team – a co-op program with Auburn High School – and the Lady Flames, Mason was ready to play at the next level.
Betting on herself, Mason made the decision to enroll at Johnson & Wales and try out for the hockey team. Even before she joined the team at Lynch Arena, Mason went through a two-week off-ice training program with the team. After that she had one shot to make the team during the first day of official team practice in October.
"I wanted to get to know everyone, but they already had connections because they were already friendly with each other," Mason added. "They weren't sure about me because they didn't know if was going to make the team or not."
Following that tryout, coach Lewis told Mason she could come back the next day and that she would let Mason know the following day if she made the team.
"I was nervous for about 20 hours while she made her decision," Mason said. "The next day she pulled me into a room and told me she was only taking me on the team because they needed more people on the team. She told me I couldn't talk."
While her teammates were starting to warm up to Mason, she was worried that making any mistakes would jeopardize her spot on the team. Those concerns subsided when she scored a goal in her first shift in her first collegiate game against Post University. She scored twice that night and went on to lead the team with 11 goals, which at the time was the single-season record.
Mason followed up her 11 goal rookie year with 11 more scores the following season then broke her own record with 14 goals in 2018-19 that ranked fourth in the NEHC. She finished her career with 10 goals and a career-high 10 assists this year for a personal-best 20 points. Her career records stand at 46 goals and 74 points. Maybe even more impressive is Mason suited up for all 105 games JWU played during her career.
"I never expected to be one of the top players, I thought I was going to be on the third line," Mason noted. "I wasn't even sure that I could go D3, but I was able to do things I never thought I was able to do coming into a team I wasn't recruited to."
As if juggling academics and ice hockey wasn't difficult enough, Mason decided to add another sport to her collegiate resume. In the spring of 2018 she asked Claire Parry – a goaltender on the ice hockey team and the number one singles player on the women's tennis team – to hit around. While Parry got the upper hand that day, she told Mason if she worked at it over the summer she had the talent to be on the JWU team.
After a four-year hiatus, Mason became a two-sport athlete on August 30 when she won 6-0, 6-0 against Samantha Gilbert from Curry. She recorded a 10-2 singles record, including 7-0 in GNAC play. Mason won her last five matches, including a victory against Simmons in the GNAC semifinals.
Her success in the rink or tennis court is overshadowed by her work in the classroom. Mason graduated in three years with a 3.94 grade point average in accounting and will complete her MBA this spring. She has already accepted a job with Price Waterhouse Cooper in their external assurance division. Her interest in accounting stems from her dad's construction business where her mother used to do the books.
While there's nothing wrong with taking the sure thing, Kathryn Mason has proven that working hard and following your dreams can bring an exponential amount of success.