January 18, 2012

OCHS grad Meredith Long takes over Rutgers field hockey

Sports Columnist

Meredith Long, who was an All-American field hockey player for Ocean City High School, has been named head coach of the Rutgers University field hockey program. Long, who also played on a National Champion at the University of Maryland, was an assistant for two seasons with the Scarlet Knights who was moved into the top coaching position by Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Pernetti.

“Meredith possesses all of the qualities that we look for in head coaches to lead our student-athletes, including deep relationships in the sport as a coach and continuing player,” Pernetti said. “Our field hockey program will benefit greatly from Meredith’s passion, commitment and desire to create an excellent environment within our program. She and I share the same championship vision for Rutgers field hockey.”

“I am just thrilled with this opportunity,” Long said. “It has been something I started to think about when I was at Maryland but I never dreamed it could happen this fast or at such a high level. Big East field hockey is among the best in the country. We get to play teams like UConn and Syracuse. That makes us better. It is such an exciting conference.”

In her first campaign as an assistant with with the Scarlet Knights, Long helped lead Rutgers to its first Big East Tournament appearance since the 2003 season. Prior to Rutgers, Long served as an assistant coach at Towson University in 2009. She began her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Vermont.

Long is also a member of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFCA) – where she has coached for the Spirit of USA – and the United States Field Hockey Association (USFHA) – coaching the USFHA Futures program.

Long commenced her collegiate playing career at Boston University, earning a spot on the 2001 America East All-Rookie Team. She transferred to the University of Maryland and helped the Terrapins advance to the NCAA Final Four for three straight seasons, including the 2005 ACC title and NCAA National Championship.

“There is definitely some of (OCHS) Coach (Trish) LeFever in my coaching style,” Long said. “I am so grateful I grew up in Ocean City and could go to high school there and be coached by her. She established my foundation in the sport, as she did for so many others. I learned a lot from Missy Meharg at Maryland (who just recently was named National Coach of the Year for an unprecedented ninth time) and from Nicky Houghton at Vermont. I have been very lucky to be exposed to such great coaches.”

At OCHS, Long was the leading scorer her senior year with 23 goals. During her four years in the lineup the Raiders won four straight Cape-Atlantic League American Conference titles and three NJSIAA state championships. Her teammates included Abbey Woolley Heird, now running some of the country’s top field hockey clinics, and current OCHS head coach Cory Picketts Terry.

“I couldn’t imagine field hockey not being a regular part of my life,” Long said. “I had to red shirt one year at Maryland because of an injury. It was frustrating standing on the sidelines but I stayed involved. I worked on stats and the coaches even included me in their discussions. It made me realize there was a way to stay in the sport after I stopped playing.”

Over the past decade, statistics have shown that less young women are playing field hockey while other fall sports like soccer and volleyball are increasing in numbers. But that trend does not seem to have had much effect in South Jersey.

“There is such a rich field hockey tradition in South Jersey,” said Long. “It was like that in Ocean City. There are a lot of great coaches in South Jersey, like Mrs. LeFever, who work hard to get young players involved. We plan to do that here at Rutgers, starting a day camp for girls from 5-12. We need to let young girls experience the sport and see how exciting it is.”

Long joins Stephanie Vanderslice Gaitley, the head womens basketball coach at Fordham, and Chris Carideo, the mens basketball coach at Widener, as former OCHS athletes directing college programs. Many others, like Doug Colman, Margaret Carey and Scott Bittner, are working as college assistants.

Though her first season as head coach won’t begin until August, Long will be very busy with Futures and the National Indoor Team. Plus, her Rutgers winter conditioning program and indoor practice sessions begin next week. “We have five competitions in the spring, too,” she said. “This is where we really sort things out and get ready for the season.”

One of the players getting ready is freshman Jenn Staab, another All-American from Ocean City High School. “Jenn is fantastic,” said Long. “She played in every game as a freshman last fall and had a positive impact on the team. She works hard and plays with passion and intelligence, part of the Ocean City tradition.”

And few know more about the Ocean City field hockey tradition than Meredith Long.

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