BANGOR, Maine — Gina Schuck, who has built the John Bapst High School field hockey team into a perennial Eastern Maine title contender, said Wednesday’s season-opening 2-0 loss to Dexter was “bittersweet.”
Schuck, who is in her 16th year at the Bangor school, was coaching a sport she loves but it was her last season-opener.
Schuck is retiring after this season to spend more time with her family.
“I’ve watched this program grow over 16 years to go from playing out at [Penobscot] Job Corps to now being a turf team and making that transition,” said Schuck, explaining that John Bapst used to play on the grass Job Corps field on Union Street in Bangor but has played on the artificial turf surface at the University of Maine in recent years.
“And for us, because we usually have kids who had never played the game, this is an easier situation to learn the game … playing on turf instead of fighting the grass all the time,” added the 41-year-old Schuck.
“It’s time [to retire],” said Schuck, who played college field hockey at Kent State University (Ohio). “Mentally, I’m ready. My boys, Peter and Jack, are playing soccer and flag football. Jack is also involved in children’s theater.”
Schuck, who is an ultrasound specialist and works for two physicians’ offices, said she leaves for work at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t get home some nights until 8:30, which gives her limited time with her two sons.
“And it interferes with my golf game,” she quipped.
She said she had planned to retire after last season but has a special place in her heart for her eight-member junior class and decided to return for one more season.
“This junior class has a bunch of real good kids who work really hard,” said Schuck. “They want to get better. They want to be coached. None of them has a bad attitude. None of them pulls anybody down. They pull each other up. It’s fun to be around this group of kids.”
Schuck’s Crusaders have won 49 of their last 64 games. She has led them to two Eastern Maine championship-game berths.
Schuck hopes to hand the coaching reins over to first-year assistant Liz Saucier after the season.
Saucier is the daughter of highly regarded Orono field hockey coach Dodi Saucier.
“Liz will do an amazing job,” predicted Schuck. “She’s smart about the game and she will take it to the next level. It’s perfect timing [for Saucier to take over].”
John Bapst athletic director Rick Sinclair said Schuck will be missed.
“Gina is an institution here. She’s a great teacher of the game and a great role model. She does everything right. She has built quite a program. Her record speaks for itself.”
Dexter High School coach Margaret Veazie agreed.
“She’s a wonderful coach and a wonderful person,” said Veazie.
Sinclair and Veazie also agreed that Saucier will be an excellent successor.
“She is on top of everything including the paperwork. She relates well to the players and she has had good coaching experience,” said Sinclair.
Saucier is a former Old Town High School standout who played college field hockey at William Smith (N.Y.), where she was a three-time All-Liberty League selection, a two-time NCAA All-Region pick and was named to the 2004 NCAA Division III Championship all-tourney team.
She was a second team All-American her senior year when she set a school record for assists with 17.
She was an assistant coach at the University of Maine and was the head coach at SUNY-New Paltz after serving as an assistant there.
“Things are going great,” said the 28-year-old Saucier, who went to graduate school at Penn State. “It’s great to learn from [Schuck] and it’s a great team to work with.”