October 17, 2013

30 in 30: Will Constant Coaching Change Tax Denison?

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Whitney Powel is a junior from Shaker Height, Ohio who led Denison in ground balls (48) and was second in both draw controls (43) and caused turnovers (26).
© Denison Athletics

As Labor Day approached, signaling the unofficial end of summer and the start of fall ball in Central Ohio, Denison still didn’t have a women’s lacrosse coach.

But there wasn’t really a panic among the Big Red’s players. It was less than three years ago that Denison didn’t have a coach until after Christmas break. The Big Red ended up reaching the first of two-straight NCAA tournaments that spring.

So when Denison finally announced the hiring of former Morrisville coach and Le Moyne star Amanda Daniels on Sept. 2, the toughest adjustments might have come on the sidelines.

Daniels would be the fourth coach in as many autumns for Denison’s seniors. The coach, meanwhile, had to learn everyone’s name, set up a fall ball schedule, finalize her coaching staff, institute a game plan, set team goals and, of course, find a new home. Luckily, she’s taken care of that last part.

“I’m definitely still living out of some boxes,” Daniels said this week. “But at least I found a great place to live.”

A pretty good place to work, too. Denison is coming off a 13-3 season and reached the NCAA tournament the two seasons before that. The Big Red also have a pair of captains, senior Lauren Adams and junior Whitney Powel, who have been through it all before.

“They were just excited to get someone in there,” Daniels said. “They had been waiting for a long time, too.”

On the night before addressing the team for the first time, Daniels met with Adams and Powel to get a read on her new program. The captains and the coach found themselves on the same page. The next day Daniels asked the team their goals. They wanted to win the North Coast Conference again and get back to the NCAA tournament. Daniels plans on aiming higher. 

“That’s a great goal, but then what?” Daniels said. “We have to get past that as our end goal and make winning NCAA games and reaching further into the tournament the end goal. That is really what we see. I believe we have the ability in the near future, if not this year.”

It’s not an unreasonable timetable. Everything happened at an accelerated pace for Denison this month. The fall season started almost immediately after Daniels’ arrival. In addition to the on-field work, Daniels spent the month recruiting and finalizing her coaching staff. On Sept. 30, Denison announced the signing of Maddie Coleman, who starred in the cage when Gettysburg won the NCAA championship in 2011, as an assistant coach.

“When I think back I honestly don’t know how we did it,” Daniels said. “It was all happening at once. I was just trying to keep some things as normal for everyone as I could, because obviously everything else was changing. We made it work somehow.”

Denison has a history of making things work.

In 2010, field hockey coach P.J. Soteriades was offered the interim coaching job on Christmas Eve. The following spring the Big Red, picked second-to-last in the NCAC preseason coaches’ poll, won the league.  The next season, with Kristin Ramsey -- who headed back east to head her alma mater, McDaniel, this summer -- at the helm, they won the NCAC again and defeated Adrian in the first round of the NCAAs. Last season they went 13-3 but fell to Kenyon in the NCC semifinals.

“It’s not foreign to them,” Daniels said. “It’s great because they know they can get there. You have to have people on a team that know they can there.”

But for the immediate future, the Big Red are back to having their captains run the ship. Once the fall season ends the coaches can’t be involved. Luckily the captains won’t be guiding Denison through unfamiliar waters.

“The captains are super motivated and they know what they need to do,” Daniels said. “They’re gonna keep going with everything throughout the remainder of the semester. They have a great tradition with that. So far they’ve impressed us in every way.”

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