Two newest varsity sports recruiting for debut seasons

Women’s field hockey, men’s lacrosse gearing up to welcome athletes

Allegheny’s 22nd and 23rd sports are poised to become parts of the athletic department and the greater campus community. The Allegheny Women’s Field Hockey and Men’s Lacrosse coaches are currently recruiting athletes to build teams that will fit Allegheny’s academic culture and create a solid foundation for their programs.

“The process is a lot of fun, (and) it’s a lot of work in a good way,” said  Valerie Lohr, head women’s field hockey coach. “I think it’s really advantageous to start a new program rather than having to change a culture.”

Lohr and Margaret Maclean, assistant women’s field hockey coach are hoping to have a roster of athletes for the fall 2019 season confirmed by Thanksgiving of this year. Both coaches said the recruiting process involves long hours and frequent travel.

Thomas Pearce, head men’s lacrosse coach echoed their comments on the recruiting process.

“When I got the job here for men’s lacrosse, there’s a lot of recruiting events that you have to attend over the summer to identify the student athletes you want to recruit,” Pearce said. “I got hired right when all of that was getting going, so I’ve been working remotely and living in Frostburg (Maryland) until just a couple weeks ago, attending recruiting events and reaching out to guys over email and letting them know when I would be here to start having guys through campus.”

Pearce emphasized these visits as a selling point for Allegheny throughout the recruitment process. The beauty of the campus, according to Pearce, is one positive way to reassure hesitant athletes being who are contacted by a new athletic program.

“There’s no background on us, and us being in such a hard conference, some kids look at that and they see teams like Ohio Wesleyan, all those teams: Dennison, Wittenburg, Kenyon. Teams we’re going to play in our conference, they have that reputation of being so good for so long,” said Anthony Accardi, assistant men’s lacrosse coach. “It’s just the what-if that kind of scares them early on.”

Pearce said those “what-ifs” can seem especially relevant to heavily recruited athletes.

“I think that any time you contact a guy who is a pretty good lacrosse player and maybe they’re hearing from some schools that they’ve heard of before because they’re looking at lacrosse teams that have a lot more history,” Pearce said. “Allegheny just doesn’t stick out because we don’t have a whole lot of history.”

Pearce has addressed these challenges primarily through the college’s strengths.

“I need to share my vision for the program with them, and let Allegheny College sell itself once they start to look into it,” Pearce said. “That’s one of the things I think with Allegheny, we just need to find guys who are looking for what Allegheny’s great at.”

Lohr said Allegheny is an easy sell for prospective student-athletes, particularly after they visit campus.

“Allegheny has something very special that you cannot see from the internet,” Lohr said. “You can’t see it from our website. It’s the culture of people all getting together to ensure the success of the students, and you feel that when you go to class, you feel that when you speak with the professors, you see that in the student body. So we make sure that they come to campus, and after they come to campus, it’s pretty, we’re blessed in that they’re like ‘we’re in, we love this, we can’t wait to apply.’ ”

Lohr and Maclean are looking to build a talented and ambitious team of students who fall in love with Allegheny. Lohr said she wants to win the NCACs in the next four years but most importantly wants to build a team that sets goals for themselves.

“My goal for this team is to create the culture that they want for success,” Lohr said. “If we can break things into things that we understand and that are manageable, it’s just like how we’re going to attack the classroom.”

Margaret Maclean, assistant women’s field hockey coach said she shares Lohr’s vision for a group of self-directed student-athletes.

“We come in and we talk about it, so we allow them to make most of the goals that they think they can do and we kind of nudge them in the right direction so that they feel like they created it themselves,” Maclean said. “It allows them to be more independent and really create something in themselves.”

Maclean is creating something in herself as a new coach. A national champion and recent college graduate, Maclean played under Lohr during her time as an athlete at Pace University in in New York and has experience coaching at the club level.

“As a coach, I think because I’m so young, my goal is to really make my presence known and get respect from the girls in that aspect because I don’t have a lot of experience,” Maclean said.

Maclean plans to become a head coach of her own program one day. Lohr praised Maclean’s coaching ability and her potential as a member of the Allegheny staff.

“Margaret has played for me in the past and she is an excellent, person, recruiter, worker and she is exactly what we needed to round out our coaching staff,” Lohr said.

In 16 years of coaching, Lohr has coached virtually every level of field hockey, including Division I, II and III at the university level.

“This is the college that matters. All the rest of it was just building into today,” Lohr said. “I really am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and all of that prepared me to come to Allegheny to be a head field hockey coach, to start a program and ignite the passion and give these girls a full student athlete experience while evolving them into the best possible person they can be.”

Pearce not only has experience as a head coach, but also starting a new program. Pearce started another Division III Lacrosse Program at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland and spent nine years there before moving to Allegheny.

Allegheny has something very special that you cannot see from the internet.

— Valerie Lohr, Head women's field hockey coach

“It’s similar in that I’m starting a program from scratch again, but I think that the main differences just are state institution versus private liberal arts college,” Pearce said.

Pearce does have experience with private liberal arts colleges, having attended and been an assistant coach at Gettysburg College.

“Coming from Gettysburg as an undergrad, he’s going to have a really similar experience in his playing days as a student athlete would have here at Allegheny,” said Ashley Hughes, head women’s lacrosse coach. “Seeing that he already has started a program, I’m really excited that he’s here and already kind of knows the way.”

Accardi is eager to continue his own coaching career under a head coach with Pearce’s experience. Accardi began his career at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY before working as an assistant coach at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA.

“I got the chance to talk to Coach Pearce, see what he’s done with his background down at Frostburg, at Gettysburg, and being very successful, I just thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Accardi said. “Not many coaches at such a young age get the chance to help someone start a program.”

The program that Accardi and Pearce are building is one that is meant to have a presence beyond the athletic department, according to Pearce.

“I think that I want to be very, very particular in making sure that we’re not just forming a team of guys to play lacrosse,” Pearce said. “When we start the lacrosse program, I want people to look at the lacrosse program here at Allegheny and say ‘That was a positive addition to campus.’ ”

Starting a program — and not just a team — is Lohr’s first priority as she continues to recruit.

“We want them, 20 years down the line, to be like, ‘that was the best time, we’re going back for the alumni game,’ ” Lohr said. “We’re not recruiting just to fill a team. We’re recruiting to make an impact immediately, build a culture.”

Lohr said she wants the community behind this team and this culture and is hosting an event to try to foster this community spirit and raise awareness for field hockey. Any Allegheny or Meadville community member interested in learning more about the sport is invited to play at 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 and 23 at Robertson Athletic Complex. All equipment is provided and no prior experience is required.