December 13, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY COACH OF THE YEAR: Katie Thompson

Nokomis coach brought players together

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Katie Thompson ended the 2012 season talking to a reporter, and crying because her players wouldn’t get to play one more game. She ended this season talking to reporters, and crying because her seniors were getting exactly the ending they had hoped for.

It’s always clear how much Thompson cares about her players, and that’s one of the reasons Nokomis has become one of the top field hockey coaches in the state under her coaching. This season, the Warriors went undefeated and won the Class B state championship.

That makes Thompson the choice as the Morning Sentinel Field Hockey Coach of the Year. Also considered were Mt. Blue’s Jody Harmon, Messalonskee’s Katie McLaughlin, Skowhegan’s Paula Doughty, and Winslow’s Mary Beth Bourgoin.

“There’s something about her,” Nokomis senior Kelsey Kerstetter said. “I don’t really know. She just has so much heart. I love that. I’ve tried to develop that as part of my personality. She cries because she’s so passionate and enthusiastic about it. You can tell how much she really cares.”

Heading into the season, there was no consensus among coaches and observers about a clear No. 1 team in Eastern B. Most everybody saw it as a league with a lot of parity. Thompson said she was hoping simply for a winning record, but she knew her players wanted to get at least one step further after losing in the Eastern B semifinals last fall.

“I came into the season knowing that we had some really good returning players who were skilled and worked well together,” Thompson said. “I never let the team look too far ahead. I know that was a goal the girls had, but it was not something that was at the forefront of our team. We always focused on what was coming up.”

Every season, Thompson makes a point to work on team bonding. It’s not an act, either: She often attends games of former players, like Husson’s Sabrina Vaillancourt and Taylor Lovley and Maine’s Marissa Shaw. There are also team dinners once or twice a week during the season.

“She always goes out of her way and does things for us,” senior Taylor Shaw said. “You can tell we’re a family.”

“I think it’s so important for your team to really like each other and trust each other,” Thompson said. “So I don’t mind taking half a practice sometimes on team-building activities. They’re in it for each other. They do work on it. But it helps to have a really great group of kids.”

The biggest win in the regular season for the Warriors was against Winslow on Oct. 8. Both teams were undefeated, and Nokomis pulled out a 1-0 overtime victory.

“There was a nervous excitement to that game,” Thompson said. “I think both teams had their ‘A’ games. To me, that made me really think in my head, ‘Yup, we can do this, this year.’”

Nokomis entered the Eastern B playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The Warriors dominated in the quarterfinals, but still needed overtime to advance. After wins in the semifinals and regional final, Nokomis faced York for the state title.

“She told us to relax, and yeah, we do have a big target on our back, but take it game by game, try to do your best, and that’s all you can do,” Shaw said.

One thing that helped the Warriors all season is that they were so balanced. With Lindsay Whitney, Drew Graves, Olivia Brown, and Kerstetter, there wasn’t one person you could focus on and guarantee shutting down the Nokomis offense. In the state game, Brown, a freshman who comes off the bench, scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory.

“They knew every single kid on the team could do it,” Thompson said. “No one on the team would ever say, ‘She’s a freshman, and she couldn’t score that goal.’”

That game was more than a month ago. Thompson, a science teacher at Nokomis, still hasn’t gotten tired of reliving those moments.

“She’s so excited,” Kerstetter said. “She keeps talking about it. It just shows how much she loves the sport and being with us girls.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243mdifilippo@centralmaine.comTwitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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