Diane Bracalente-Molinaro is turning back the clock. The 1981 graduate of Quakertown Community High School has headed back to her old stomping grounds where she was a high school super star, landing her a scholarship to play for the NCAA DI powerhouse Old Dominion University, under legendary coach Beth Anders. While at ODU, Bracalente-Molinaro was a three-time National Champion and two-time All-American. She continued her playing career on the USA Field Hockey National Team and the 1988 Olympic Team which competed in Seoul, South Korea.
Mid-season last fall, Bracalente-Molinaro served as an assistant coach for the Quakertown Panthers on a brand new turf field; she was appointed Head Coach in December and embraces the opportunity to steer the program back to its glory days, as well as have a hand in the developmental program at the middle school and elementary levels.
Quakertown had a successful 2014 campaign, advancing to the Suburban One League District One playoffs with an 8-9-1 record. But, the recent program’s success pales in comparison to Bracalente-Molinaro’s playing days and in the ‘80s and ‘90s when the Panthers advanced to the state playoffs five times, making it as far as the state final in 1986. The program returns four rising senior starters and a strong support from the Quakertown administration who are thrilled to have their esteemed alumna return, with great coaching and playing experience.
I caught up with Bracalente-Molinaro to find out more about her new position and her illustrious playing career.
Tell us a little about your field hockey career from the early days:
“I first started playing hockey in 7th grade when my gym teacher (former babysitter) handed me a stick and said – ‘you’re athletic, you should give this sport a try; I bet you could be pretty good at it.’ I played through middle school and high school. It wasn’t until the fall of my senior year when my team made it to the state tournament that I realized hockey could open many doors for me. I met Christy Morgan during that time since we were both from the same area and started crossing paths on the recruiting circuit. We thought it would be fun to go to the same school, play on the same team and win championships. We decided on Old Dominion University for the simple reason it was close to the beach and we thought the coaches were pretty good (Beth Anders and Char Morett), plus they were installing a new turf field. At that time hockey was mostly played on grass and turf fields were rare even in college. My time at ODU was an eye opening experience where I learned to really play hockey. My teammates were wonderful, Beth was an amazing coach who taught us just as much about life as she did hockey. My freshman year we started the season unranked and finished 3rd at the NCAA Tournament and my sophomore through senior years we won three consecutive NCAA Championships. It was the start of the legacy at ODU. During my senior year at ODU I was selected to the USA National Team and for the next four years I traveled the world and competed in the 1986 World Cup, 1987 Pan American Games, and 1988 Olympics. Four of my ODU teammates were on the team, which made the experience even more meaningful. Last summer I played for the USA Masters World Cup team in Rotterdam, Holland which was held in conjunction with the World Cup in The Hague. I enjoyed playing internationally again and catching up with old friends. I began my coaching during my playing years, assisting at LaSalle University (1986 – 1988). More recently, although no longer, I coached at FSC Hockey Club, WC Eagles and Moravian Academy Middle School. I also do private coaching.”
Why return to Quakertown to coach?
“I’m at a point in my life where I have the time to give back to the sport that has given me so many opportunities. Quakertown is also where it started for me. The administration led by Dr Harner and athletic director, Sylvia Kalazs are very supportive of the sports programs and coaching staff. We all work together as a team to provide the best possible opportunity for the student-athletes. The atmosphere has great energy, the kids are talented and the community is behind us.”
What are your goals for the program?
“This is definitely a full circle experience for me. I look forward to working with the team and helping each player develop as a person and athlete. My longer-term goals are to expand the program into the elementary schools and to grow the middle and high school teams. The participation level is a bit low given the size of the school and I hope to increase the numbers over the next few years.”
What are the team’s strengths and your strengths?
“Our biggest strength is our belief in each other. Every one of the girls has something special to contribute to the team in their own unique way. The energy is great, the parent support through the booster club is phenomenal and the new turf field is huge for developing a higher skill level. I bring to Quakertown a solid background in teaching the basics of hockey, which are the building blocks for learning higher level techniques.”
What do you think is special about Phila-area field hockey?
“We are very fortunate to live in the area field hockey was first introduced to this country. Our area is further supported by strong school programs and a growing base of club teams. We also have a large number of talented coaches who are teaching the latest techniques. Other areas of the country are growing the sport but do not have the history the Philly area has.”
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