September 4, 2019

Arndt Excited to Take Helm of Hun Field Hockey, Focusing on Helping Squad Make Daily Improvement

FRONT RHO: Hun School field hockey player Allison Rho heads after the ball in a 2018 game. Junior Rho figures to be a key player on the front line for Hun this fall. Hun, which is being guided by new head coach Tracey Arndt, hosts Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on September 10 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After guiding the Princeton Day School field hockey program from 2012-14, Tracey Arndt left the school and focused her efforts on younger players, coaching for the Princeton Field Hockey Club.

But while Arndt enjoyed working with the club’s U-10, U-12 and U-14 squads, she realized it wasn’t quite the same as coaching at the high school level.

“There is something about a high school season; that is where the friendships are made,” said Arndt.

“There is something so unique about the relationships that you can form; you find out things about yourself that you didn’t know before. I think that is really cool.”

So when Arndt learned last fall that the Hun School had an opening at co-director of athletics, with the imminent retirement of Kathy Quirk, who also coaches field hockey and softball, she went for the job.

“The position opened up last December, the co-director position is what popped up,  but because of this coach-teacher model that they have at these independent schools, you knew that you would be coaching something,” said Arndt.

“I had known Kathy from coaching against her and I knew that she was leaving and that the field hockey position was open so that was a possibility.”

Arndt got the job and also agreed to take over the Hun field hockey program and the dual role has turned out to be a good fit.

“It has really been awesome so far, it is very progressive; I am finding that is the Hun way,” said Arndt.

“They are really focusing on athletes in general, not male or female, but sports equity; making sure that each student athlete gets the best experience they can get and that they are being supported the best way that they can.”

The influence of Quirk has helped ease the transition for Arndt. “Kathy is such a keystone of that school and she has left her mark; I am not trying to fill her shoes, I will never be able to but my shoes are going to sit right next to hers,” said Arndt.

“This is like another kid for her, the teams that she coaches and the school itself. Being so kind and supportive, she has been great. The staff in the athletic department, I think, is second to none.”

As Hun has gone through its preseason practices, Arndt has been concentrating on bonding with her kids.

“We are at a point where we we are starting to build what our culture is going to be, really getting to know each other and forming those relationships,” said Arndt, whose team opens its season by hosting Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on September 10.

“It is hard to come in when you have to start so quickly so we are trying to take some time so they understand where I am coming from and I understand where they are coming from and what has worked for them. For me as a coach, especially with a new program, it is defining what success is. Success to me this year may not be about our win-loss record but more about how are we getting better everyday as individuals and as a team.”

Arndt believes that her message is getting through to the squad, which is coming off a 6-11 seasom in 2018. “I am thankful that I have a healthy field hockey background but that doesn’t mean that they have to,” said Arndt, a former star at Penn State who played for the U.S. national team.

“If they can come in and embrace the idea of working hard, being coachable and staying positive then everything will start to come into play. So far they have bought into that. Everybody is valued here and everybody is an important part of the puzzle.”

Junior Allison Rho should emerge as a key piece for the Hun attack this fall.

“Allison is a forward, she plays for the Princeton field hockey club as well,” said Arndt.

“She has done a lot of neat things. She is a lead-by-example type of girl, she may not be the vocal leader. She is certainly showing leadership by her work ethic and attitude everyday. I have looked to her as a leader on the front line.”

In addition to Rho, Arndt is looking for senior Emma Caforio, sophomore Ashley Jones, and senior Gabby Samano to help spark the front line.

“Emma has really stepped up as a natural leader; I think lacrosse is her main sport but it has been really fun to see her grow in field hockey in just the last week,” added Arndt.

“Ashley plays on the Princeton club team as well; she played last year on varsity as a freshman. Gabby is a Princeton club player as well and is someone who will also be leading our forward line. She has been working really hard to improve her skills and we look forward to seeing her play this year.”

On defense, senior Emily Albanese has been stepping up on the back line along with sophomore goalie Lexi Thomas.

“Emily is more of a lacrosse player; she is super athletic and that has been fun to watch. Lexi is probably going to be our starting goalkeeper. Even in this last week, she has shown a lot of improvement.”

Arndt is looking for improvement across the board as the season unfolds.

“I think for us, the key is to focus on growth, number one, whether it is within the game or within their individual skills; if we continue to show growth that will be part of a successful season,” said Arndt.

“One of the keys to success is staying within ourselves. We have a very hard schedule with our MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) games and the CVC (Colonial Valley Conference) games. It is staying on our course; we can’t let other things distract us. It is just  to continue to focus on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Maybe we won a game against a team last year and lost this year but that means nothing. It is how did we perform from last week to this game.”

In Arndt’s view, the players
are embracing that approach. “The energy is good; they are really being sponges which is awesome,” said Arndt.

“The preseason has been long and grueling but they are going with it. It has been great.”