GARDINER — The Gardiner field hockey community did its best to keep coach Moe McNally’s quest for a 400th win a secret. The thing was, McNally knew herself — she just wasn’t saying anything.
“I don’t like to be in the forefront,” McNally said. “It’s just not the way I am.”
But McNally had no chance to escape the spotlight on Tuesday afternoon. Gardiner’s 4-0 victory over Erskine was the 400th in a career that began in 1979. Sophomore Nickyia Lovely marked the occasion with three goals, and Gardiner athletic director Steve Ouellette presented McNally with flowers in a brief presentation after the game.
McNally is the third coach in Maine high school history to win 400 career games. The others are Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty and former Belfast coach Allen Holmes.
“You don’t see longevity like this anymore in coaching,” McNally said. “I think it’s a tough business at times, but Gardiner’s made it easy. The city and the community of Gardiner’s made it easy, and the kids I’ve had come through have been terrific kids.”
Sharon Gallant played on McNally’s first Gardiner team in 1979, and has been her assistant for 15 years. Gallant said part of what has made McNally so successful is the way she prepares for each game.
“She knows who the players are on the other team,” Gallant said. “She knows what their positive attributes are. I mean, she knows the other team. One of the things that impresses me most is how prepared she is, every single game.”
Gallant said that how McNally handles and relates to the players is even more impressive.
“The thing I respect most is just how she is with the girls,” Gallant said. “They just all love her. She does so many things that aren’t field hockey-ish that really make a great coach. She checks on their grades. She knows if there’s a parent that’s sick.”
Gardiner (6-2-0) had chance after chance in the early going, but was continually thwarted by Erskine goalie Alexis Soucy. By the time the game was 11 1/2 minutes old, Soucy already had nine saves.
The Tigers finally got through on their 10th penalty corner of the half, as Lovely scored on a rebound. Lovely struck again just 1:09 later, taking a nice pass from Nicole Chadwick and knocking it into the right corner. Chadwick then assisted on a goal by Abby Dyer, and Madeline Reny set up Lovely to make it 4-0 at the half.
Erskine (1-6-1) played much more evenly with the Tigers in the second half. Despite their record and brutal schedule, the Eagles have allowed only 16 goals in eight games.
“We had a tough game yesterday against (undefeated) Winslow,” Erskine coach Brittany Stilphen said. “I think they were a little tired. We’re a young team, and it takes them a little while to get going, but we’re getting there.”
Stilphen, then Brittany Chadbourne, played for McNally at Gardiner from 2000-03 before playing four years at the University of Connecticut.
“She’s just a great coach,” Stilphen said. “I’m glad that I could be here for her 400th win.
“It wasn’t the terms that I would really like,” Stilphen added, laughing. “It was good to be here, though.”
“Is it a big deal?” McNally said. “Yeah, I guess it is, in terms of coaching. But I’d rather have the win. I want the kids to play well. I’m looking forward to the tournament. This is over, and it’s all about the kids for me.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243