Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The expectations for Winthrop field hockey this fall were obvious. The Ramblers returned most of the same team that had lost in overtime in the Class C state championship game one year earlier. To a person, they wanted to take that next natural step and win the Gold Ball.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
It didn't happen, as Winthrop lost a tough 2-1 decision to Lisbon in the state final. But during this season, Winthrop coach Sharon Coulton showed why she is one of the top coaches in the state, and she is the choice for the Kennebec Journal Field Hockey Coach of the Year. Oak Hill's Brittany Stilphen was also considered.
Coulton began the season by changing Winthrop's setup. In effect, the Ramblers went from a 4-3-3 to a 3-2-3-2. It was a risky move to tinker with the setup of a regional champion, but Coulton's aim was to create more offense.
"Last year, we scored 44 (goals), which is not bad," Coulton said. "But the previous year, I think we scored 70."
Winthrop finished this season with 67 goals. Coulton liked the extra layer, and if the Ramblers needed to protect a lead, they simply went back to the 4-3-3.
Coulton was able to implement this seamlessly because, after coaching for 32 years and winning 300 games, she has a clear idea of what will be done during each part of practice.
"She always knows what she's doing," senior back Jess Scott said. "She knows exactly what she wants to do and she knows how to do it. She's just so organized."
Still, there were adjustments. Winthrop outscored its opponents 26-0 over the first five games, then lost to Spruce Mountain 3-2.
"Our first really, really tough test was against Spruce Mountain, and we lost to them in overtime," Coulton said. "That was a wake-up call. We were set back on our heels a little bit by the intensity that Spruce Mountain brought. We needed to go to another level and find that."
To get her team to reach that intensity level, Coulton did everything but shout and be demonstrative. If you can picture someone yelling softly and calmly, that's what she did.
"It's so weird how she can just make you feel so much better about yourself," senior midfielder Liz Glover said. "People think, 'Oh, she's not screaming. She's not doing her job as a coach.' When she's talking, it just relaxes us. We can get fired up, while she gives us tips."
"She's always super-positive," Scott said. "She doesn't make us feel like we're doing something wrong. She just shows us how to fix it."
After missing out on the Mountain Valley Conference championship game in 2011 because of a tie in their final game, the Ramblers reached the MVC game by defeating Spruce Mountain in the rematch. In the MVC championship, they defeated Lisbon, and they also took down Dexter in the Eastern C final.
In the state final, Winthrop gave up an early goal and eventually fell behind 2-0. The Ramblers got back within a goal, but ran out of time.
It was still a season most teams would be thrilled about. It's also a team with a coach a lot of people want to play for.
"She's, I guess, like a loving coach," Glover said. "She just knows how to approach people and what to say and what to do. It's her thing, I guess."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243