Emphasizing Full Effort, Positive Attitude, Hickey Taking Helm of Hun Girls’ Lacrosse
ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Lauren Johns brings the ball upfield in a game last season. Hun will looking for senior star midfielder Johns to have a big final campaign. The Raiders, who have gotten off to a 1-2 start, hosts Lawrenceville on April 3 and Stuart Country Day on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Rachel Hickey is emphasizing a pair of cardinal principles as she takes the helm of the Hun School girls’ lacrosse program.
“I ask for two things every single day – I ask them to give 100 percent in their effort and their attitude because those are two things that each of us can control,”said Hickey, who is succeeding Liz Cook as the head coach of the Raiders.
Those lessons were reinforced for Hickey as she competed for the Rutgers University women’s lacrosse team from 2010-13.
“Playing at the Division I level, you are pushing every single day; you are going against athletes just as competitive and skilled as you are,” said Hickey.
“Having to show up every single day and compete and knowing that if you don’t give your best every day, you are not only giving less to yourself but giving less to you team. At the Division I level, it is all year.”
Drawing on that experience, Hickey went into college coaching after graduation, serving as an assistant coach at Kings College from 2013-15, helping the Division III squad bolster its program.
“I have been really lucky my whole life to have coaches who gave me great knowledge of the game between high school, club and college,” said Hickey, who starred at Shawnee Hugh before going to Rutgers.
“I thought it was a really neat opportunity to go somewhere I can give back to kids who have never played before and that is exactly why I did. Half of my team in college had never touched a stick before. It was really cool.”
Hickey enjoyed another cool experience as she served as an an assistant for the Wesleyan University women’s lax team from 2015-18.
“Under Kim Williams, I was a part of a team that needed a big change in culture,” said Hickey.
“She has the goal to win the national championship. Getting to coach alongside of her and watch someone who is so innately competitive and willing to put the time in to get where she wants to be was really inspiring. I learned so much from her.”
After a stint in Hawaii as her husband finished up his Naval duty, the couple retuned to their native New Jersey and Hickey found a position at Hun as assistant director of admission and girls’ lacrosse head coach.
“I am doing recruiting in admissions; for me it has always been about the people,” said Hickey.
“I genuinely care about the kids and the families. I felt at the high school level I could be really impactful and help the kids get to where they want to be. It is all like the perfect fit, it just makes sense.”
As the Raiders went through the preseason, Hickey has worked on helping her players develop greater self belief on the field.
“I really want to instill confidence in these girls; I want them to know that they are capable and that it is OK to make mistakes,” said Hickey, whose team lost 14-9 to Hopewell Valley last Monday to fall to 1-2 and hosts Lawrenceville on April 3 and Stuart Country Day on April 5.
“I think there are a lot of kids who are afraid to fail. It is OK to fail as long as we learn from what we did wrong.”
Hickey has confidence in her attacking unit, which includes senior Lauren Johns, junior transfer Ally Cowan, sophomore Renee Nearing, junior Rose Denommee, junior Emily Albanese, freshman Charlotte Bednar, sophomore Nicki Renna, and senior Kira Black.
“Lauren Johns is going to be a middie; Ally is new to the program and is a really strong player overall,” said Hickey, who got four goals from Cowan in the loss to HoVal with Renna chipping in three.
“Nearing is a good player. Rose is another player who we are excited about, she is more like an inside player, she cuts well and she understand the offense very well. Emily will see time in the midfield. Charlotte doesn’t back down to anything. Kiera cuts really well, she sees the offense well.”
The Raider defense led by senior Kendall Nehlig, junior Grace Davis, junior Chessie Ross, senior Olivia McNulty, and sophomore Anna Hyson.
“Kendall is the kind of kid who does everything right; she is really aware of the field,” said Hickey. “Grace, Chessie, Olivia, and Anna are also on defense.”
Junior transfer goalie Ariel Gold does a lot of things right in the cage.
“Ariel is really quick, she is super agile,” said Hickey. “She is small in size so I think a lot of people underestimate her but she moves well in the cage.”
As the Raiders have started their 2019 campaign, Hickey is more focused on development than the record.
“Even when we win games, I am going to sit back and I want the girls to sit back and say ‘did we give 100 percent effort’ and ‘could we have given a little more out there?’” said Hickey.
“We still need to learn from the wins too. If we are just evaluating ourselves off the wins and the losses, we are never to get better and we need to learn every single day.”