Darien's Minicus Wins National Coach of the Year
Published 2:11 pm, Thursday, January 13, 2011
Any time a high school team goes undefeated and wins a state championship, it's sure to raise some eyebrows. But doing it three years in a row? That's a whole other story that barely seems possible.
But that's exactly what the Darien field hockey team accomplished this past fall under the direction of 11th year head coach Mo Minicus. For her efforts, Minicus was voted a National Coach of the Year, an award which she won at the national convention in Baltimore, MD after being named the Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year.
"It's a great run we've had and this year's senior class was big in numbers, big in strength, big in skill, big in personality," Minicus said. "If there was ever a class for this to happen, this was the one."
Eleven years ago, during her first season as coach, Minicus likely would have settled for a .500 record, much less a National Coach of the Year award. During her inaugural season, Darien won just one game. In her second season, Minicus turned the team around to the tune of a .500 record. In her fourth season, the Blue Wave won the FCIAC tournament, and in her fifth year they were undefeated state champions.
Fast forward to the 2010 season, and Minicus and the Blue Wave were in the state championship game against Daniel Hand looking to make it three straight unbeaten seasons and four straight conference and state championship-winning seasons.
Because of their absolute dominance of the regular season, the FCIAC playoffs, and the early rounds of the state tournament, Minicus and her squad found themselves in uncharted territory: A defensive struggle against Daniel Hand which would be in doubt until the final whistle.
"That was a great game. That was the one thing that worried me and that was going against us: We hadn't had a close game, for the most part, all season," Minicus said. "It wasn't until the postseason when reality struck because most field hockey games are very low scoring and very close. But I told them that this is field hockey and this is how it should be. Enjoy yourself and don't play tight."
Darien held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the contest, but a Daniel Hand goal with five minutes left put the celebration on hold. In a tense conclusion, Darien managed to hold off the Daniel Hand rally for the win.
Minicus's senior captain and center-defenseman Sophie Doering said that she wouldn't have had it any other way, and that the team never would have been able to win it all without the tutelage of Minicus.
"Daniel Hand definitely presented us with a good challenge, but it was nice to end the season with a hard-fought victory," Doering said. "There's no way we would have been able to do it without her. She has such a positive attitude. She's more of a friend to us than a coach and we all trust her so much and are so close with her."
With a team consisting of 13 seniors in 2010, Minicus will have the task of replacing a vast array of talent next season, but it's a challenge she sounds like she's already embracing.
"I'm really looking forward to next season," Minicus said. "At the most, we'll only have six seniors next year, and only one of them was a varsity starter this year. I'm looking forward to what they'll bring because I think they'll be hungry to get out there and play. They won't have the experience, but they have the skill for sure."
Even after a third consecutive unbeaten season which saw the Blue Wave outscore their opponents 140-9, Minicus couldn't help but feel like she was getting a bit too much credit, and she was quick to thank those who had helped her win the award.
"As overwhelmed and humbled as I am, I feel like I'm not receiving this award alone," Minicus said. "I'm so thankful for my assistant coaches and the coaches who get these girls going in the youth program such as Kelly Vegliante. She does such a great job getting these girls ready. It's a town-received award."