AN APPRECIATION

Joan Lewis, head coach, Moorestown (N.J.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

For the last quarter century, a storm has been brewing just off Bridgeboro Road in Moorestown, N.J., between the varsity football field and the middle school complex.

The storm is personnified in a coach who often dresses in black from head to toe, and wears tinted glasses on a furrowed brow.

Joan Lewis hates to lose. Detests it. Perhaps more than any of the other dozen coaches who have attained the career 400-win mark in field hockey.

She has worn down the sidelines of field hockey pitches throughout the southern part of the state, not only with pacing, but when she crouches down to pull up a blade of grass or two, nervously releasing tension.

But when she channels that energy into knowledge, something great happens. She is perhaps the one field hockey coach you would want to give you that last motivational pitch before you are summoned off the bench to head into a close game, with a slap on the back and a "Let's go!"

For Lewis has said more than her share of the right things in 24 years of coaching, leading to her 400th career win on Sept. 18, 2002. Since she took over as head coach in 1979, the Quakers have never failed to make the New Jersey state tournament. The team has never lost more than five games, nor won less than 12.

The Quaker program shared the National Federation record with 13 heading into the 2002 season. And what is remarkable is that this team often plays in the Group II tournament, which is universally regarded as the toughest state tournament in the United States.

Numbers like these can be gaudy ("I don't look at numbers," she says), but she instead is one who treasures the people who have worn Moorestown colors over the years. An unbreakable line of success had already been established at the school since the 1910s and 20s, and Lewis continued it.

"Everything we've accomplished has come because of the girls we've had here throughout the years," she told The Burlington County Times after the milestown 5-0 win over Burlington (N.J.) Township. "I give them all the credit. We've had some great players and they've given me a lifetime of great memories."

And so many different ones, too. Her Quakers were the defending Group II champions coming into 2002. Oddly enough, the previous year, her team fell short of the championship game despite having perhaps more talent than any scholastic team in the country.

There have been singular talents that have come through the Moorestown program who have done extremely well in college. Some championship teams Lewis has had did not have players who went on to play top-level field hockey.

But on the day day of the win, Lewis was in the moment. So was her daughter Amy, who scored a pair of goals. Amy's older sister Sara, a fine player herself in the Black and Gold, was on the sidelines.

"Whoever would have thought that I'd still be here after this many years?" she told The Times. "To still be coaching has been nothing but a joy."

She said this while clad somewhat in the color black. But as if to blend in with her team for the day, she wore a polo shirt of the color gold.

And the results were just as good as gold.

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