For nearly two decades, the Bangor High School field hockey team was mired in the bottom third of the Eastern Maine Class A Heal Points standings.
Once a powerhouse, the program had fallen on hard times.
One of the state’s most populated high schools, anywhere from 1200-1600 students, lost to schools with one-fourth of its enrollment. And losing by lopsided scores.
But the Bangor High School field hockey team isn’t a laughing stock any more.
The Rams not only won eight games last fall (8-7) and reached the Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals, a dozen of them won the Maine Games seven-versus-seven championship last weekend in Portland.
Having a coach who is enshrined in six Halls of Fame and coached a University of Maryland team to an NCAA Division I field hockey in 1987 and two lacrosse titles certainly helps.
That coach is former University of Maine athletic director Sue Tyler.
After going 2-1 in pool play, Bangor beat John Bapst 3-2 in the semifinals and Greely of Cumberland Center 3-0 in the title game.
“We got better every game,” explained Tyler, who will be the new head coach at Bangor High this fall after KVAC coach of the year Lisa McPhee stepped down to devote more time to her family.
The Maine Games team included her daughter, All-KVAC first team and all-state midfielder Lexi Casey and second team All-KVAC pick Emily Chick, the team’s leading scorer in the tournament.
Brittney Chapman, Ashley Higgins, Casey Pray, Dana Libhart, Tynesha Dias, Kelsey Cota, Megan Bolduc and Darcy Andrade also had productive tournaments as did goalkeepers Taylor Pomroy and Melissa Mower.
Tyler was the Bangor JV coach two years ago before becoming McPhee’s assistant last fall.
The establishment of field hockey programs at Bangor’s two middle schools several years ago helped set the foundation for success.
Bangor High School athletic director Steve Vanidestine and then Superintendent of Schools Jim Doughty also added field hockey to the athletic curriculum in the elementary schools so the girls got a taste of it at an early age.
“It used to be that the girls who didn’t make the soccer team played field hockey,” said Tyler. “But that’s not the case any more. These girls aren’t soccer wannabees. They’re very good athletes who want to play field hockey.”
Bangor currently has seven players involved in the Futures program for the state’s best field hockey players. And they have other players who play for various club teams including a Bangor High team.
So when they have their first practice this fall, Tyler and her staff will be spared of having to teach their players the basics.
“We can work on more advanced skills and strategies,” said Tyler.
So what has it been like for someone who has had so much success at the college level returning to coach at the high school level?
“It’s fun to work with the girls. I love the game of field hockey. A lot of people don’t like it. It’s a hard game to understand. But it’s a wonderful challenge and I love to see people find themselves through the game and experience success,” said Tyler.
Vanidestine is thrilled to have Tyler involved in the program and said she has transitioned very nicely.
“She’s a very, very good coach. She knows the game. Our kids have learned a lot from her,” said Vanidestine.