When Michigan field hockey defenseman Ashley Reichenbach stepped off the field after her freshman season, she knew she had to turn and face the strain.

Paul Wong
Ashley Reichenbach helped turn Michigan into a formidable power as a defender. Now she works to keep it there as an assistant coach.<br><br>FILE PHOTO

The Wolverines had an abysmal 7-11 record and were sniffing the pants of every other Big Ten team.

Nobody comes to Michigan to lose.

So Reichenbach and her teammates made some changes. Over the next three years, Reichenbach would help her team to a 50-12 record and co-captained the squad that made Michigan”s first-ever National Championship appearance.

The Wolverines” turnaround wasn”t just in their physicality. It was in their philosophy.

Now Michigan is always a threat, always THE team to beat. Last year the team placed first in both the Big Ten regular season standings and the Big Ten tournament.

In July, the Wolverines announced the hiring of Ashley Reichenbach as one of its assistant coaches. Michigan can”t ever have back the brawn that Reichenbach brought, but at least it can have the brains.

“She”s tactically incredibly smart and strong and has helped the defense a lot,” Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz said. “She”s stepped right into a whole other role and she”s done a fantastic job.”

Reichenbach, who was also a powerhouse in academia, used her undergraduate degree in English to get her a job with Quest Personnel in Norristown, Penn. But her connection to field hockey remained strong.

During the gap year after graduation, Reichenbach coached several camps as well as serving as a volunteer coach at her high school in Palmyra, Penn.

In addition, Reichenbach has participated in the United Airlines Field Hockey Summer League for the past four years, most recently playing for the Philadelphia Fury. This August, Reichenbach was selected to lead one of eight teams during the 2001 AAU Junior Olympic games.

Reichenbach also kept close ties to Michigan. She served as one of two students on the University”s Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics from 1998-2000 and was part of the search committee that selected current Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin.

Coaching at Michigan so soon after she left, Reichenbach finds herself instructing former teammates.

“It”s definitely been a different role,” Reichenbach said. “Because I did play with (the current juniors and seniors), I do feel like they are my sibling sisters. But maybe more like an extended big sister now.”

Coaching has expanded the way Reichenbach has thought about field hockey.

“You see the game a lot differently,” Reichenbach said. “You have to take in the big picture a lot more than just focussing on what”s going on in your position.”

Pankratz thinks Reichenbach”s leadership is what makes her a great coach.

“She was a wonderful leader when she was the captain, and now she”s stepped into a different role as coach,” Pankratz said. “The team respects her and it”s been a great fit.”

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