Nicholson has built New Egypt into a power

Posted: December 11, 2004

New Egypt coach Patti Nicholson crafted a program from nothing into a competitive Group 1 team capable of threatening teams from much larger schools.

Nicholson started building the program from scratch in 1999 when the school first opened. Two years later, the Warriors fielded their first varsity team.

Flash-forward to the 2004 season. The Warriors have appeared in the state tournament twice in the last two years, only to lose to Pingry both times.

New Egypt's only losses going into the state tournament this season were against undefeated schools that won a state championship: Collingswood and Eastern. The Warriors ended the season at 14-3-1, and Nicholson is The Inquirer's South Jersey field hockey coach of the year.

Nicholson schedules as many games as she can against teams from other groups. She pushes her team to work hard but does so in a quiet, understated manner. In big games, Nicholson will often take the time to talk to a player she has pulled out of a game, putting an arm around the player's shoulder.

She attributes the program's support to the community.

"We get tremendous support from the school and the athletic department," she said. "They care about what we are doing."

And the fact that New Egypt is a new school created from the enrollment of Allentown, a traditional field hockey powerhouse, field hockey passion is definitely in the water.

But Nicholson's coaching ability has impressed even some of the best coaches in New Jersey.

"She really knows the game, loves the competition and knows what her players can do," Moorestown coach Joan Lewis said. "She is the powerhouse behind that program."

Best field hockey hairstyles. Cherokee. Who doesn't love an orange headband or bow?

Best display of spirit. In the state finals, the Moorestown junior varsity girls painted their faces to read MHS and never for a second stopped chanting or cheering to keep the Quakers on field motivated.

Best mascot at a field hockey game. Eastern's Viking showed up with the proper horns on her hat and furry wrap, but the spandex under it all keeps her neat and proper.

Teams to watch in 2005. Kingsway, Bishop Eustace, Bordentown, Haddon Heights, Gloucester City, Egg Harbor Township, Ocean City, Cinnaminson, New Egypt, Camden Catholic.

Overlooked players. Here is a list of players that didn't make all-South Jersey but came close:

Sam Papa, Haddon Heights, senior; Kelsi Fanelli, Audubon, senior; Amanda Green, Gloucester, senior; Kiley Graham, Shawnee, senior; Brooke Bercari, Bordentown, senior; Katie Kucheruck, Hammonton, senior; Carrie Beimer, Haddonfield, senior.

Best attitude. Jenny Lubin, a senior at Moorestown, is always moving on the field. She's always near the ball, ready to play. She doesn't get angry. She just keeps going and going. She's the team's "energizer bunny," in the words of coach Joan Lewis.

Players to watch. Julia Giordano, Moorestown sophomore; Rachel Hunter, Ocean City junior; Bryn Bain, Eastern freshman; Meghan Dawson, Eastern sophomore.

Class-act moment. Moorestown's Amy Lewis handing the state championship trophy off to her teammates the moment she had a chance to hold it.

When a rebuilding year isn't really a rebuilding year. Ocean City.

When a rebuilding year will really be a rebuilding year. Moorestown, which is losing 17 seniors.

Most improved. Audubon finished fourth in the Colonial Conference Liberty division last year. This year, it finished second, just below Group 2 sectional title contender Haddon Heights in the Patriot division.

Most courageous player. Kerstin Briggs, a Rancocas Valley senior, recovered from a serious internal injury suffered in softball to play for her field hockey team. Then, she tore a tendon in her knee in practice and played most of her next game before succumbing to pain.

Mental toughness moment. Against Emmaus, Eastern was down, 1-0, to trail for the first time in the season. But two goals by Ashley Walls gave Eastern a 2-1 victory.

Best rivals. Shawnee vs. Lenape.

Game we want to see most: Eastern vs. Moorestown.

Contact suburban staff writer Nikki Usher at 856-779-3234 or nusher@phillynews.com.

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