By Frank Aceto | Record Publishing Co.
It was business as usual for Jen Haney.
The Hudson field hockey team was in the middle of a long winning streak and she was tirelessly planning for the upcoming postseason tournament.
And then someone got her attention in a somewhat physical way.
"A week and a half went by and finally (assistant coach) Laurie (Wilkins) smacked me on the shoulder and said, 'What about this coach of the year thing'?" Haney said. "It was almost like she was threatening me."
At that point, the unassuming veteran head coach couldn't keep the big news a secret any longer.
Haney recently was named the Ohio High School Athletic Association Field Hockey Coach of the Year.
She guided the Explorers to a 13-3 record, which included a 12-game winning streak in 2013.
It was the first time in her 13-year head-coaching career that Haney, who is 159-51-23 at Hudson, received the prestigious award.
"I was in total shock, to be quite honest," she said. "I'm not very good at receiving this kind of stuff. I don't like to boast. I didn't tell my family about it until about a week and a half later."
Once the secret was out, Haney couldn't hide. Let's just say the list of people who congratulated her would have been enough to fill Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"I received quite a few emails from coaching colleagues in this area and down south," Haney said. "Those emails are something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. I also got text messages from players on the 2000, 2001 and 2002 teams.
"When I think about coaching, it's about the relationships I've had with the kids over the years. That's why I love coaching."
Haney came to Ohio after a stellar field hockey career at Greene High School in New York.
She also played field hockey for Kent State University from 1993 to 1996, where she was a captain in her senior season and led the Flashes in assists (5) the same season. She then became a physical education teacher at Hudson High School in 1998.
At Greene, Haney learned about the game from then head coach Nancy Bromley and her assistant coach, the late Nancy Barrows.
"Both of them were special to me," Haney said. "They were very influential and they are the reason why I'm here today. If it wasn't for field hockey, I would have never come to Ohio."
Haney guided the Explorers to the state-title game (a 1-0 loss to Ottawa Hills in double overtime) during her first year as head coach.
In 2001, Hudson lost a 2-1 decision in double overtime to Columbus Bishop Watterson in the state semifinals. Bishop Watterson is led by veteran head coach Janet Baird, a Greene graduate.
"That (2001) was a great year," Haney said. "I still keep in touch with those kids. I have so much respect for Janet, (Thomas Worthington head coach) Terri Simonetti-Frost and (Columbus Academy head coach) Anne Horton."
Columbus Academy recently earned a 1-0 overtime win over Thomas Worthington to win its 10th state title.
Haney, who has been named Northeast Ohio Field Hockey Coach of the Year twice, was honored during the team's final regular-season game. The Explorers earned a 4-1 victory over Western Reserve Academy at Scott Malson Field.
"Laurie made sure it (the Coach of the Year award) was announced on Senior Day," Haney said. "(Senior) Erin Hoover also committed to Ohio State that day. There were a lot of hugs and tears."
It was quite a season for the Hudson field hockey team.
Other than the sparkling record and their coach's prestigious award, the Explorers also received the Sportsmanship, Integrity and Ethics Award for Northeast Ohio.
"Janet Baird also got the SIE Award and the current Greene head coach, Sue Carlin, was named Coach of the Year," said Haney, whose husband Mike is a teacher at Kent Roosevelt High School and is the Rough Riders' baseball head coach.
If there was one negative in all these honors, it was Hudson's 1-0 loss to nemesis Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in a regional semifinal game. That loss ended the Explorers' two-month winning streak and more importantly, it concluded their glorious season.
"We're always right on the bubble," Haney said. "Sometimes, I wonder if I'm maybe a curse to the team. In the end, it was an awesome season. It goes back to things that happen for a reason. In competition, there's always a winner and a loser.
"We have to think about the positive things during the year and the great friendships we gained. It was about how they grew as individuals and how we grew as a team.
"They have to realize only one team can win the state championship."