Forman: Fuchs has the resume

Matt Forman

Both were named All-Americans multiple times. Both won a National Player of the Year award and a National Championship in their respective sport. Both competed internationally for more than a decade and were considered among the best to ever play their sport when they retired. Both earned their first opportunity as a head coach in Evanston.

One is Northwestern lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. And we all know her resume – four national championships, five conference titles and an .822 winning percentage… all in seven seasons.

The other coach?

New Wildcats field hockey coach Tracey Fuchs. Fuchs, who was hired nearly a month ago, spent the last 12 seasons as an associate head coach at Michigan. Prior to that, she competed in more international matches than any player in U.S. field hockey history. She also guided the U-21 national squad in 2008.

The greatest difference between Amonte Hiller and Fuchs is their age upon being hired. When Amonte Hiller was hired, she took over at 28-years-old. Fuchs is 15 years her elder.

There’s no doubt that when athletic director Jim Phillips hired Fuchs, he had one thing in mind. Who can turn the program into a national contender the quickest? Amonte Hiller has won four of the five national championships in NU history. (The other was the 1957 men’s fencing team – now defunct.)

But that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. In just over one year in his current position, Phillips has made a routine of bringing in coaches with a track record.

Sure, it’s a bit early to begin comparing Fuchs to Amonte Hiller. The track record Amonte Hiller has compiled is absurd. That standard is ridiculous. It is realistic to suggest, however, that Fuchs can turn the field hockey program into a consistent winner.

From her experience with both international and collegiate competition, Fuchs knows who the nation’s elite players are and where they come from. She just has to get those players to visit and commit to NU.

When Amonte Hiller was asked two years ago about the recruiting success she told ESPN: “(Girls) don’t have that dream growing up that they might go pro… They understand what college is all about. They want to get into the best school, get the best education and compete at the highest level. Northwestern’s an easy sell because of that.”

As simple as it sounds, NU sells itself.

But there’s one major difference between lacrosse and field hockey. In lacrosse, superior athletes with a drive to learn can excel using their athleticism. In field hockey, skills take longer to develop.

Two weeks ago, Fuchs said to The Daily Northwestern: “Our game is one of the most difficult technically. Obviously I want (good) athletes, but for me I would rather have a better field hockey player who’s smart than a better athlete.”

Let’s just say that Fuchs won’t be able to do what Amonte Hiller did when she told two girls who were out running that they could play lacrosse at NU. (Twin sisters Ashley and Courtney Koester picked up a stick soon thereafter and won a national championship four years later.)

Still, the coach is in place. The current roster combined with new recruits will slowly put the players in place. Those are the easy steps. The third step might be the most difficult – implementing expectations of winning.