Former Old Town High School all-state selection and University of Maine All-America East field hockey star Shaunessy Saucier admits she figured it would take her some time to become a head field hockey coach at the college level.
But when Coni Fichera resigned as the head coach at Bryant University (R.I.) last November after starting the program 10 years ago, that left the door open for Saucier, who was Fichera’s assistant.
Saucier will make her debut as a head coach against her alma mater in a tournament at Hofstra in August.
“I hadn’t planned on becoming a head coach so soon. But that’s just the way everything turned out and I’m really excited,” said the 26-year-old Saucier, who directed the Bulldogs during their spring season.
The Bulldogs went 2-16 last fall in their first Division I season after making the jump from Division II. They beat Siena 3-1 in their season finale for their first Division I win.
“This is an amazing opportunity. This is a real good place and I really want us to succeed,” said Saucier, who has a one-year contract. “They are committed to athletics at Bryant. They have a real good support staff. I’m very fortunate.”
The Bulldogs were the 12th and newest member of the Northeast Conference last season. That league includes Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut State, Sacred Heart and Long Island University.
The Bulldogs aren’t fully funded, she said. NCAA Division I field hockey institutions are allowed 12 athletic scholarships.
Saucier, a second team All-America East selection in 2005, wouldn’t divulge Bryant’s number of scholarships but indicated the program’s scholarship money will increase gradually.
“This is a good situation for her,” said Maine coach Josette Babineau, who hired Saucier as an assistant in 2007. “She’s young and this program is young in Division I. They’ll go hand-in-hand. She’ll learn as she goes. It’s a big responsibility but she’s very personable and makes good connections. Recruiting is key in Division I and she’ll be good at it.”
Maine beat Bryant 7-0 last fall but the teams had a scrimmage in the spring and Maine won 1-0.
“She has already done a lot for the team. They had better space awareness and were way more organized in the spring than they had been in the fall,” said Babineau.
Saucier said former Maine assistant and current Providence College head coach Diane Madl has been “very helpful” and she intends to have her Bulldogs play “a very aggressive style.
“Ideally, I want us to eventually get to a point where we have very skilled players who can play a smart, tactical game. But until we can build up our tactical game, we’re going to make up for it with hustle. We may not have the most skilled players right now but we have really hard-working girls who want to win,” said the daughter of David and Dodi Saucier.
Saucier said she had a great experience playing at Maine and is looking forward to coaching against players she used to coach and helped to recruit.
“It was fun to see them in the spring,” she said.