Just three years removed from Michigan’s first women’s national championship in any sport and six months out of an appearance in the NCAA regional finals, field hockey coach Marcia Pankratz has resigned her position, Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin announced yesterday. Pankratz’s assistant, Nancy Cox, will take over permanently.
Despite the program’s recent success, Pankratz said she felt that she was ready to leave Ann Arbor.
“It is the right time for me to take on the next exciting challenge in my life,” Pankratz said in a statement released by the Michigan Athletic Department yesterday. “I am so appreciative and will be forever grateful for the wonderful opportunity that I was given here at the University of Michigan.”
Senior Jessica Blake said that the decision was the right way to go for Pankratz.
“When I heard, I was thinking that, if Marcia is happy, then it is what’s best for the program,” Blake said. “We lost an amazing coach, but, if she is happy, then I’m happy.”
Despite the disappointment surrounding Pankratz’s departure, senior Adrienne Hortillosa said that the standard of success Pankratz created will help the Wolverines remain a top program.
“I think (Pankratz) brought the program to a new elite level,” Hortillosa said. “She got us to national status and won a national championship. Her positive impact is that she created a new high standard for the program to live up to.”
While Pankratz’s departure is a big loss, neither Hortillosa nor Blake said they believed there will be any decline in the program’s success.
“I definitely think that Nancy has the tools to take care of the girls and incoming freshmen,” Hortillosa said. “She has coached some of the best players and developed a good rapport with them. I would say that the girls will be well off next year.”
Though the standards for success will be the same, Michigan’s style of play may change.
“I think (the program and gameplay) will change because Marica has a unique personality,” Hortillosa said. “She has a unique ability to connect to players to make them be the best that they can be. Her style is specializing in attacking because she was a forward as a player, so the style will change. But the girls will have (assistant coach Pat Cota) and (Cox), so they won’t be in totally foreign territory.”
Blake said she feels that Cox’s approach is more team-oriented and less attack-based.
“(Cox) is one of the smartest people and a smart coach,” Blake said. “She sees the whole field and every player. She coached at (Ann Arbor Pioneer High School) for a long time, so she has experience. I have 100-percent faith that (Cox) will lead the program well. She will lead it differently, but, hopefully, the change will be beneficial for the program.”
Cox said Pankratz’s departure was disappointing for her, as she has worked under Pankratz for six years — first as a volunteer coach and then as an assistant coach after leading Ann Arbor Pioneer from 1981-99.
“Personally, this is truly a day of mixed emotions,” Cox said. “On one hand, I’m going to miss the opportunity to continue my coaching relationship with Marcia, but to get the chance to become the head coach at Michigan is a tremendous opportunity that I’ve worked incredibly hard to achieve. I look forward to the challenge.”
Like Hortillosa and Blake, Cox is confident that the program is in good hands and that she will maintain the standard of success Pankratz established.
“I feel comfortable in taking over the team that we have in place,” Cox said. “Marcia has built a great program, and I’ve been able to be a part of that program. I feel confident that the program will continue to grow and progress under the new coaching staff, and I can’t wait for the 2005 season to start.”