If the field hockey team needs inspiration, they don’t have to look any further than last year’s NBA champions, the Boston Celtics. Like the Celtics, the team knows it is possible to go from worst to first in just one season.
This season’s team features a new head coach. Shelley Behrens joins the program with goals in mind and the task of teaching a young team how to win.
Behrens is a key addition to this squad that has only one senior on the roster. She brings a lot of intensity and excitement thanks in large part to her extensive coaching background.
“Her knowledge of the game is amazing,” senior Renee Fraker said.
Behrens has worked a lot with USA Field Hockey, including a stint as the goalkeeping coach for the 1999 silver medal-winning team at the Pan American Games. After turning around Oneonta State in her only season as head coach, she now must try to do the same here at Millersville, and looks forward to the opportunity. Behrens has family in the area and was excited about the chance of improving this program.
Behrens thinks of herself as demanding, yet fair and a teacher of the game. She wants her players to be as competitive as they want to be, but does not think the team’s record is the only way of judging their process.
“I want to get better every day,” Behrens said. “The wins will take care of themselves.”
Both the players and Behrens see the team finishing higher than last season’s four wins.
While they are not ready to predict a specific number of victories, they think it is possible to improve despite having six games against teams ranked in the top-10 nationally.
During their first two scrimmage games, Behrens saw dramatic improvement, even during the games.
“She makes us have more confidence and therefore we’re playing so much better out in the field,” Fraker said.
In their opening 5-2 loss against the College of New Jersey, the lady Marauders got off to a bit of a slow start while trying to manage their jitters, but Behrens saw “a very good game against a very good team.”
The team scored on half of their penalty corners with goals by junior Kristie Testa and sophomore Emily Woodland. Junior Jessica Heckman and freshman Sara Dickinson each played one half in goal. They are now competing for the starting spot.
After trailing at half time 4-1, the team finished strong and allowed only one goal in the second half, which encouraged Behrens.
“They made adjustments in what I asked them to do and got better over one half,” Behrens said. “I would have been more concerned if we did not end the game well.”
Behrens replaces former coach Mary Gigliotti, whose contract was not renewed following last season, according to Gigliotti.
“I loved it there,” Gigliotti said. For five years we did what we could do given the circumstances.”
When asked about the decision regarding Gigliotti’s departure, Athletic Director Peg Kauffman declined to comment.
“She is a good person and meant well,” former player Meredith Barr said. “We just were not getting there with it.”
The team now moves forward and hopes it is in the right direction, and Behrens thinks they can get things going that way soon.
“I’m teaching people that don’t know how to win and getting them to believe they can,” Behrens said. “They are the ones that have to earn that result.”
This well-rounded group has been working hard towards improving, and Behrens has been impressed. She says she is their “best fan right now.”
“Their greatest strength is each other,” Behrens said.
The lady Marauders open their PSAC season at home against C.W. Post on Saturday.
While they might be facing tough competition with not a lot of expectations, it is still possible to turn the program around as quickly as this season. Just look at the Celtics.