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That’s the word Lycoming Field Head Coach Allyson Kenyon used to describe the 2022 Lycoming College field hockey team after competing in its first season for the first time in 30 years.
“We worked really hard to embrace each other’s differences,” Kenyon said. “We become connected kind of through this same goal of wanting to improve and wanting to learn and just really making this team the best it can be.”
The last time the Lycoming Warriors played a game for the college was in 1992. They finished the 2022 season 2-13, but the players gained so much more.
In December 2020, Lycoming President Kent Trachte announced the reestablishment of field hockey as a varsity sport with the intention of a debut in 2022. There had been some discussion four years prior to reinstall it with some strong advocates for field hockey on the board of trustees.
It was decided that field hockey would play on the UPMC field, sharing it with the soccer and lacrosse programs at Lycoming. With updates to the turf, they added lights and finished the building with a permanent seat structure. They added locker rooms and space for athletic training underneath, spending $3 million in upgrades to accommodate the addition of field hockey.
Then, they just needed a coach.
They hired Kenyon, who previously spent 18 years at Bridgewater College. She was head coach there until March 2021.
“They really kind of gave me carte blanche to kind of create what I wanted and what I envisioned for the program,” Kenyon said. “They really kind of looked to me as sort of my experience having been the head of a program for the last 18 years to kind of get them off and running. Which is a nice freedom to have, but also can be a little scary.”
Her first concern was being able to field a team in 2022, so she made recruiting a top priority. With high school athletes making commitments earlier and earlier, especially during their junior and senior seasons, Kenyon found herself having to play catch up.
She was able to find success with a few players who weren’t playing travel club, weren’t three-sport athletes and who wanted to continue playing field hockey but didn’t get looks from schools.
“I think going to the high school games, that was the big benefit in the fall to kind of tap into that market,” Kenyon said. “It’s not seeing the same club kids over and over again and seeing some kids who are the athletes and maybe hadn’t thought about being able to play in college.”
For her, it was about not just getting the best players, but about getting the right people. She reflected on previous successes, when she had the most fun coaching and what kind of character and qualities had made up her past teams.
Her roster had 13 players on it. And, among them, eight were first year, three were sophomores, and two were juniors.
“I think the key was to bring in a group that really understood that there was going to be growing pains the first year, but they were going to have an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Kenyon said. “They were going to be able to really leave behind the legacy.”
Isabella Bobé, a first-year goalkeeper from York Springs, Pennsylvania was Kenyon’s first Class of 2026 commitment when she started recruiting in the fall of 2021. She played in all 15 games for the Warriors and earned Division III MAC Freedom Conference Rookie of the Year.
“Not many teams can say that they brought back and started up a new program that has not been there for the last 30 years,” Bobé said. “I feel honored that Coach K, my teammates and I have this opportunity to pave the way.”
Prior to the start of the season, Kenyon defined success as seeing growth and improving each game, while also not being defined by wins. She wanted them to learn.
Her team got better and better each game, even from quarter to quarter, she said. But, a key part for their success was laying the groundwork for building the culture and establishing values.
“It was about starting to really define what it means to be a Lycoming Warrior,” Kenyon said. “What does it mean on campus or practice or in the classroom, so it’s kind of identifying all of those things and starting to put those into practice. That’s what our first season was about.”
As a new team, they surprised some opponents and worked hard, playing until the very last whistle.
“They never gave up and they never got down on themselves,” Kenyon said. “Having coached 18 years and in another more established program I know that can happen, especially in those tough seasons when the wins aren’t coming. A lot of teams will fall apart when that happens, and I think our team just grew stronger.”
Kenyon will continue to build upon the lessons learned from their first season in 30 years and continue to build the program with players, like Bobé.
“I chose Lycoming to continue playing field hockey because it was a brand-new program and the thought of being a part of something that was going to be built from scratch was super exciting to me,” Bobé said. “Talking to Coach K and seeing her enthusiasm, and the way she presented the program, really made me want to play and learn from her. I can’t wait to come back in 30 years and see the future team carrying on traditions that we helped create.”
She continued: “The traditions and memories we are making now, I hope will leave a lasting footprint.”