WINTHROP — Sharon Coulton realized it was time to step down as Winthrop field hockey coach.

“It’s not something that you wake up and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do this,’ ” Coulton said. “It’s just — you just know.”

The twist is, Coulton will still be a Winthrop field hockey coach. Only now, she’ll be the assistant, and Jess Merrill, her assistant the last three seasons, will be Winthrop’s head coach.

Coulton has coached the Ramblers the last 32 years, winning her 300th game last fall when Winthrop defeated Dexter 1-0 in the Eastern Maine Class C regional final. Winthrop went 15-2-1 last year and 13-3-2 in 2011, losing in the Class C state final both years.

“I guess I’m not ready to stop coaching,” Coulton said. “The kids coming up are a great group of kids. It will be fun working with them.”

Coulton said it was easier to step down knowing someone as spirited and talented as Merrill might want to take over the program. She said Merrill brings “a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of ideas, and I think a lot of expertise in the technical aspects of the game.”

“I think, Sharon and I, our coaching styles are very similar, and it will make for an easy transition,” Merrill said. “It’s been very good to learn some things from her.”

Being an assistant coach is not new to Coulton. She’s been an assistant for the middle school track and field team for several years.

“That has not been a problem, not being the one who makes the decisions,” she said. “You go out, and you work with the kids, and it’s fun.”

Staying with the program also means Coulton will be able to coach her daughter, Corinna, who will be a freshman at Winthrop this fall.

Merrill, formerly Jess Callahan, coached Hall-Dale from 2006 to 2009, then became an assistant with the Ramblers in 2010. The goal scored in that 1-0 victory over Dexter that marked Coulton’s 300th career win came on a penalty corner play designed by Merrill.

Merrill said the players in the program and the culture of field hockey at Winthrop made her interested in being a head coach again.

“It’s the program,” she said. “I like what we’re doing, and what Sharon has done, so I want to continue that.”

Winthrop graduated six seniors from last year’s team, and all were impact players.

“We did lose some really key parts of our lineup,” Merrill said. “They’re eager to try some new things, and they’re eager to prove that they’re just as good as that senior group.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]
 

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