DOVER-FOXCROFT — Gene Philpot, who took a leave of absence from coaching the Foxcroft Academy field hockey team and teaching physical education at the school last fall, has retired according to Foxcroft Academy athletic director Tim Smith.
And Stephanie Smith, who replaced her on an interim basis, will return to coach the field hockey team, he said.
Philpot coached for 35-plus seasons at Foxcroft and led her Pony field hockey teams to more than 350 wins, state Class C championships in 1991 and 2007 and an Eastern Maine Class C title in 2010.
Smith guided last fall’s team to a 14-3 record and a berth in the Eastern Maine Class B championship game where it lost to defending state champ Belfast 2-1.
After two seasons in Class B, the Ponies will return to Class C next fall.
Tim Smith said he will miss Philpot but is glad to have Smith take over for her.
“Gene was absolutely wonderful,” said the athletic director. “She built the program, had wonderful success and was the most low-maintenance coach who has ever worked or me.
“Everything you asked of her, she did it very, very well,” Tim Smith added. “She was self-sufficient. She was an absolute joy and a true professional in every sense of the word. She could teach a class on how to be a perfect coach and teacher.”
He said Philpot told him it was “just her time” to retire from coaching and teaching.
“It didn’t surprise me. I begged her every year to come back,” Tim Smith said.
He said he is “very excited” about Stephanie Smith’s return.
“She did a wonderful job. She didn’t miss a beat,” Tim Smith said. “She is out of Gene’s mold. She played for Gene and worked with her some. I couldn’t be happier about that.
“We got the best possible replacement we could get,” added the athletic director, who is not related to the coach.
Stephanie Smith had originally balked at Tim Smith’s offer last fall because she worked in Skowhegan as a financial analyst at Sappi Fine Paper and the commute was 46 miles one way.
But her bosses worked out a schedule for her that enabled her to coach the Ponies.
“She has since left [Sappi Fine Paper] and has taken a job in Dover-Foxcroft,” Tim Smith said.
Stephanie (Higgins) Smith is a recent inductee into the Foxcroft Academy Sports Hall of Fame. She played basketball, softball and field hockey at FA and played the same three sports at Wheaton College (Mass.). She started the field hockey program at Bangor’s John Bapst High School.
The Ponies went 12-2 during the regular season and outscored their opponents 38-5.
They earned the third seed and beat No. 6 John Bapst 2-0 in the quarterfinals and then upset No. 2 Nokomis of Newport 2-1 in the semifinals before losing to Belfast in the final.
Foxcroft was just the second team that had scored more than one goal against Nokomis. Nokomis had held opponents to one goal or less 14 times.
The Ponies will graduate six seniors but there will be a very strong nucleus returning, including forward-midfielder Emily Higgins, who scored both goals against Nokomis; goalkeeper Avery Carroll, forwards Julia Annis and Fern Morrison, midfielders Amber Anderson and Jen Boyer and backs Mackenzie Coiley and Abby Simmons.