Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 28, 2015 — Nancy Cole, 1947-2015

The first time this site ran across Nancy Cole, it was in the fall of 1999 on Long Island.

It was a morning match between Centereach (N.Y.) and East Setauket Ward Melville (N.Y.).

The imprimatur of Cole was everywhere. There were the hats and jackets which didn’t bear the logo of the school mascot, the cougar. Instead, the teamwear bore the stylized picture of an ant. The reason is that ants, working together as a team, could build vast structures.

Nancy Cole died March 17th. Over a period of 31 years, she coached her field hockey teams to nearly 600 wins and six state championships. During the early days of New York Public High Schools Athletic Association competition, Cole’s teams won four straight Class A state championships from 1982 to 1985. It was during that era when Centereach became one of the greatest scholastic field hockey teams in history.

It was the 1983 season which saw Centereach, and future national-teamer Tracey Fuchs, set numerous records for goal-scoring and for defense. The Cougars’ Karen Napolitano and her defense shut out 19 opponents in 1983, and Fuchs scored 82 goals, which was the single-season record for three decades.

It may have been a coach’s dream to have a team like this, but Cole was able to build a number of other good field hockey teams in subsequent seasons. Centereach won the 1997 Class A state championship and contended for a couple of others close to the turn of the century.

Nancy Cole retired from teaching in 2001, then served for a year as an umpire on Long Island. But she found out she didn’t like being away from coaching, so she came back to coach Ward Melville, one of Centereach’s main rivals. She then assumed a co-coaching relationship alongside former Ward Melville great Shannon Watson. Together, the Hornets won the 2008 state title, Cole’s sixth state championship as a field hockey coach.

Throughout her career, Cole was known for instilling the values of persistence, helping others, and, above all, a sense of fun. Talk to any of her alumnae, and they will tell you stories about how Cole would break the tension on long bus rides from Long Island to wherever the state quarterfinal or final rounds would be, and how that bonded members of the team together.

Cole developed herself to become an outstanding field hockey player at Northport (N.Y.), then matriculated to Ithaca College. When she came back to Long Island in the early 70s to become a physical education teacher, the field hockey team didn’t have its own home field; every square inch of grass was reserved for boys’ sports.

She became, by necessity, a Title IX advocate, ensuring that future Centereach field hockey teams would have access to facilities and privileges equal to that of the boys on campus.

Cole formed long-lasting bonds with her players — in essence, creating what this site has called the Hun-Ya-Ha Sisterhood, named for the chant the team would do before games.

She’s an American original and will be missed.


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