Long-time field hockey coach to step down

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Julie Swiney entered the fold for the Slippery Rock field hockey team on the heels of one of the worst periods in team history, a decade later — one of the most successful stretches in program history — she will now exit the program.

Swiney will step down from her post as the head coach of the Slippery Rock field hockey team at the end of May, she announced through Rock Athletics.

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to coach so many exceptional young women at such an amazing institution over the last 10 years,” Swiney told Rock Athletics. “Earlier this year my family made the difficult decision to begin a new chapter together. While this is exciting for us, it is also extremely difficult because I truly love working at The Rock and coaching this program.

“We have worked hard over the last 10 years to create a strong tradition of athletic and academic success. I am so proud of the progress we made and thank all of the women that played for Rock hockey for making this so special.”

The announcement comes from a decision to relocate her family to Virginia after her husband Kelly, the former head baseball coach at Westminster College, accepted the head coaching position for the University of Mary Washington baseball team.

While Rock field hockey experienced a resurgence on the field under Swiney, her teams exemplified excellence in the classroom, consistently ranked among the best in the NCAA in academics.

In each of Swiney’s 10 seasons at the helm of Rock field hockey, the team ranked top three in the NCAA in team GPA. Seven of those seasons saw SRU claim the No. 1 spot. Swiney’s teams dominated the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference as well, recording the highest GPA of any team in the conference in each of the last eight seasons.

Individually, Swiney has coached 150 PSAC Scholar-Athletes and 43 NFHCA Scholars of Distinction (3.9 GPA or higher) in her 10 seasons.

While a career 68-117 record doesn’t sound particularly good, context is key in this statistic.

The PSAC is the toughest conference in Division II field hockey, with 75 of Swiney’s losses coming against top 10 teams in the nation.

Swiney’s 68 wins are also the second most wins in Rock field hockey history and the most through any 10 season window. For context, in the 10 years preceding Swiney, SRU won just 24 games.

Swiney’s 2011 team clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2011, and the 2012 team improved upon the 2011 team, peaking as high as eighth in Division II field hockey and clinching another playoff berth. Swiney was subsequently named as the PSAC Coach of the Year.

In 2017, Rock field hockey experienced its best season since 1988, finishing above .500 for the first time since 1998. The 2017 team peaked as high as fifth in the country and earned Swiney her third PSAC berth.

11 wins over the next two seasons proved to be the conclusion for Swiney’s time at Slippery Rock.

Slippery Rock and the athletic department are in the process of a national search to find Swiney’s successor.

Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his second year on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered a majority of sports on campus, and he hopes to cover them all by the time his time with the paper is over. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.

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