The United States Coach of the Year: 2003
Kearney Francis, Silver Spring Springbrook (Md.)
When Kearney Francis took the reins of Silver Spring Springbrook (Md.) in 2000, the program was pretty much in shambles. But her four-year crusade to a state title gives her the TopOfTheCircle.com United States Coach of the Year award.
After all, Silver Spring is not exactly a field hockey hotbed, being set smack in the extreme southern portion of Montgomery County, abutting the District of Columbia, which does not offer field hockey as a varsity sport despite spending more tax dollars per pupil than any state in the Union.
Francis, however, began taking steps to improve the program. An off-season recreational program, the Montgomery Youth Field Hockey Association, began sending better and better players to the Blue Devils team.
And there was an unexpected benefit when former Namibian international Kajee Muranji brought skills and an almost uncanny knack for making the right play to the team.
This set up one of the most thrilling championship games of the young decade as Springbrook bested Gaithersburg Quince Orchard (Md.) in overtime.
"They are the most united group of kids I have ever coached," Francis said. "Nobody knew at the beginning of the season except us: those girls, their parents, and our athletic department.".
Nancy Cole, East Setauket Ward Melville (N.Y.): After a year off, took one of her old school's former rivals to state Final Four
Jane Morrill, San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.): Despite almost losing the end of the season to the California wildfires, steered the team to the San Diego Section I title
Andy Muir, Fairfax W.T. Woodson (Va.): Team was the first Northern Virginia team to win state title in decades
Patti Nicholson, Plumsted New Egypt (N.J.): Third-year program made it to the state championship game