Genevieve Hunter heard about the latest so-called field hockey phenom and rolled her eyes. The veteran Haddon Township coach had heard so much about Regan Dougherty before the young athlete entered high school and even saw her compete at her camps, but the hype train seemed to be running a little too fast.
“Everybody kept saying, ‘Wait until you see this girl,’” Hunter recalled.
Her response was something like, “Yeah, sure.”
She felt that way for good reason.
“Sometimes you have these girls so pumped up and then they don’t live up to that,” Hunter said.
It turns out that Dougherty has more than lived up to the hype.
“She worked hard from the second she got here,” Hunter said.
And she started scoring goals just as quickly.
As a freshman, Dougherty set the Haddon Township single-season record with 33 goals. The next three years she has spent breaking her own record: 34 as a sophomore, 35 last year and 38 in this her senior year.
Not bad for a so-called soccer reject.
Dougherty remembers beginning to play field hockey in around the second grade. Even then her athletic career was at the crossroads.
“I was just really bad at soccer, so my parents thought I could shake it up a little bit,” she said laughing.
As athletic as Dougherty is, and with her ability to run like the wind, it’s hard to picture her being “bad” at any sport, but we’ll take her word for it.
What we do know is that she surely is good at field hockey and that’s understating the matter significantly.
She plays left wing, is righthanded, and appears able to blow by defenders with ease. Breaking down a defender in any sport one-on-one is usually difficult, but Dougherty, with her blinding speed and impeccable stick skills, often leaves the waves of defenders in their tracks.
Hunter says Dougherty is actually faster with the ball than without, a chilling thought to any defender.
Dougherty is also an accomplished student and has accepted a field hockey scholarship to La Salle University.
“I absolutely loved the coaches and players on my visit and felt so comfortable and I love Philadelphia,” she said. “It’s close to home and my family can see me compete.”
She wanted to play Division I field hockey, but also has the goal of eventually becoming a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant and felt La Salle offered her the best chance to combine athletics and academics.
Dougherty has been the object of opposing coaches’ game plans for four years and says the extra defensive scrutiny she receives can be difficult. Then again, as the numbers show, she has somehow found a way to get past this tight coverage.
Her high school career is heading into the homestretch. The Hawks will be among a number of contenders in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 tournament, which begins on Tuesday.
This is crunch time, when it’s one and done.
And for any senior, that means one loss will end their career.
“I am really trying to savor every moment of it,” she said. “I love my teammates and we are super close off the field and trying to enjoy every last minute.”
And beginning next week she will do her best to extend those minutes as long as possible.
Regardless of what happens, Dougherty has already accomplished the most difficult feats by exceeding the considerable hype with which she entered high school.
And anybody who has seen her perform will surely realize that soccer’s loss was truly field hockey’s big gain.