One year down for Palmer Ridge field hockey coach Mallory Cuccio.
“It went as well as expected, taking over a successful program,” Cuccio said.
Cuccio, an alum, took over the program from Paul Lewis after a state title and the team went 8-4-3, securing a playoff berth and earning Cuccio the Gazette Preps Coach of the Year honor. The Bears put together two three-plus game winning streaks.
Cuccio was an assistant coach for two years prior to taking over, so the games held few surprises.
“The administration was the shocking part of it, just how much time went in behind the scenes — that was a real eye-opener,” Cuccio said. “It was always going to be hard.”
Next season will bring a welcome level of familiarity. The group of seven anticipated rising seniors — which includes two captains and goalkeeper Reece Wagers — will be the first group she’s had all four years.
“It’s nice that I’ve been in their development since most of them have started. It’s going to be a newer dynamic,” Cuccio said. “Looking to be more positive and see what was working and what wasn’t working and trying to improve on that, and building up the area as well.”
One thing that wasn’t working, according to Cuccio, was on the mental side — blaming other elements, such as officiating, instead of focusing on what the Bears could control. After a 4-0 playoff opener loss to Colorado Academy, a team Palmer Ridge beat and tied during the regular season, the referees drew the Bears’ ire.
“We might have spent too much time this season blaming the uncontrollables,” Cuccio said. “We have to focus on rising above that.”
With a young team and new leader, Palmer Ridge didn’t defend its state title with a deep run, but remained in the mix. That’s enough for now.
“At the end of the day, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, the growth of the girls is what’s important,” Cuccio said.
“We still had a winning season.”