Two-time Olympian tabbed new WNE field hockey coach
SPRINGFIELD – Judy Strong – a two-time Olympian, 1997 University of Massachusetts (UMass) Athletics Hall of Fame inductee and former coach at Smith College – has been chosen to take the coaching reins of the Western New England University (WNE) field hockey program. That announcement was made by WNE Director of Athletics Dr. Michael Theulen on May 21.
A well-respected college official in women’s lacrosse and field hockey circles working numerous NCAA championship events, Strong returns to her coaching roots for the first time since coaching both sports at Smith College. She ranks as the Pioneers all-time winningest coach with 98 lacrosse victories from 1988 to 2001 and ‘03 and 171 field hockey wins from 1987-2006. In addition to her coaching duties, she taught tennis, golf and squash classes in the exercise science department at Smith.
“I have been officiating full-time for the last seven years, but I look forward to reconnecting with student-athletes (on a personal level), serving as a role model, sharing my experiences and building a strong competitive program together at Western New England,” said Strong, who will be working the NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship weekend in Gettysburg, Pa. “While officiating field hockey and lax games, I saw something special in the way the (WNE) athletes played. They always played as a team and worked hard from start to finish, regardless of the score. I liked their energy and desire. So when I saw the (WNE) position open, my first thoughts were: ‘if I got this job I could build a winning program with that combination from the athletes.’”
Theulen said, “We are extremely pleased and excited about the addition of Judy Strong to our athletic family. Her background experiences, which are extraordinary, are exceeded only by her student-athlete centered coaching philosophy. Judy brings an expertise that will make an immediate impact with our coaching staff and her team. We look forward to her arrival.”
In 2005, Strong was selected to the NCAA Division I 25th Anniversary Team as the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship was one of several women’s championships celebrating their 25th anniversary under the NCAA banner during the 2005-06 academic year.
Strong was a member of the 1981 UMass team that went 17-1-2 under head coach Pam Hixon, defeated Long Beach State in the NCAA semifinals, 1-0, before falling to UConn, 4-1, in the national championship game. She was selected to the NCAA All-Tournament team and was also named the National Player of the Year after posting 27 goals and 58 points, both season records for a UMass senior.
She finished her career with the Minutewomen as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 202 points – one of nine school records that she still owns today. She racked up 88 career goals for No. 1 in UMass annals and 26 assists, which is sixth on the school charts.
UMass Field Hockey compiled a 67-15-5 record for an .799 winning percentage during Strong’s four-year career from 1978 to 1981. The three-time Mitchell and Ness All-America selection played on two New England championship teams in 1979 and 1980.
In addition to her collegiate days, Strong also excelled at the international level as she was a member of the U.S. National Field Hockey Team from 1978-84. She was part of two Olympic teams, including her last appearance in 1984 when the United States won the bronze medal. She also represented her country in the 1983 World Cup of Field Hockey staged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
She also scored nine goals, 10 assists and 19 points during her three-year career for the Minutewomen lacrosse team, which fashioned a 36-8-1 record from 1979-81. UMass was the United States Women’s Lacrosse Association (USWLA) runner-up when she was a sophomore and the team made a pair of Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) semifinal appearances during her junior and senior seasons.
Calling Hatfield her hometown, Strong received a bachelor of science degree in physical education from UMass in 1982.
In the next week, Strong plans to contact the entire Golden Bears team to get acquainted, set up the preseason, prepare fall practice schedules, and start recruiting for next year. She expects to take her office during the first week of August. She stated that the goals for the season are to have each player practice and play with passion, purpose and consistency throughout the season and to play as a team.
“Our long term goals will be to recruit and build up the number of players on the team, win the Commonwealth Coast Conference and finish in the top four of the conference standings year-in and year-out, and be competitive in every game we play,” she said.
East Longmeadow native Dan Gomez was also officially named the Golden Bears’ head baseball coach going forward after serving in an interim capacity since July 2013. That announcement was made on June 2.
“Dan has done a tremendous job for Western New England University ever since his arrival. Taking over late last summer, he navigated our team through a very tough schedule and ended up in our conference championship game. This after losing some very talented players from last year’s team to graduation. We are very excited about Dan’s hire and the continued success of our baseball program,” Theulen said.
“I am grateful that Coach Theulen and the search committee have the confidence in me to continue to lead the Golden Bear baseball program,” Gomez said. “It is a tremendous opportunity to continue to be a part of the tradition of Western New England. I look forward to continuing to build on the tradition of success that our program has.”
The ninth coach in the 45-year storied history of the Western New England program, Gomez molded a team that lost seven position players from the previous season and he took them to the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship game in his first year at the helm this spring.
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