First on the Field: Field Hockey’s Noor Coenen looks to build on last season’s success
Senior midfielder looks back on her AU success with one season left
American University field hockey has been a pillar of success in the NCAA and the Patriot League for more than two decades. The program has seen its fair share of star athletes come through the ranks, but arguably none more impactful than senior Noor Coenen.
In her junior season, she led the Eagles with 44 points on the year, tallying 18 goals and eight assists and leading the team to a Patriot League title. Her campaign earned her a Second-Team All-American position as well as First-Team All-Patriot League, PL Offensive Player of the Year, and PL Tournament MVP. She is also only one of nine AU players in program history to have over 100 points on her career — and that is only through three seasons.
“She's a phenomenal athlete, she's somebody who can do it all on the field; she can score, she can pass, she can eliminate on the dribble, she can tackle,” head coach Steve Jennings, now in his 22nd year at AU, said of Coenen. “Her knowledge of the game is immense, and she's somebody who can make it happen in every single game.”
Originally from the Netherlands, where field hockey reigns supreme as one of the country’s most popular sports, Coenen had a much different experience growing up playing the game in comparison to most of her American teammates.
“In my area we have clubs, so we don’t work within the school system like the United States does,” Coenen said. “We got to play with so many other people, so the competition is obviously way higher, which made it so much more fun for me to compete and get better. That’s something I really cherish, the area where I got to play field hockey and the fact that it was so competitive.”
That drive for competition is part of what has allowed her to emerge as a standout player in the league and leader among a relatively young AU group. With just six upperclassmen on the team last year, Coenen shouldered a larger leadership role, building chemistry with the underclassmen and guiding her teammates through their new responsibilities. Not too long ago, she was in the same position, so she recognized the value of senior leadership.
During her freshman year, she felt overwhelmed, but the initial shock wore off as soon as she found her groove playing hockey with her teammates. She said the roles reversed last year when she focused on “taking care of the team, making sure everyone’s doing all right. [The season] can take a toll on everyone, especially the freshmen.”
Coach Jennings also reflected not only on Coenen’s tremendous playing abilities and confidence on the field, but also on the value she adds in her knowledge of the game both physically and mentally.
“She’s a real leader for us on and off the field, somebody who's curious, kind, reaching out to others, always somebody who makes an impression,” he said. “She just is one of those people that you just never ever forget. Great ambassador for us … wonderful to watch play, wonderful to talk to, great student. She's the whole package.”
Coenen even made an appearance on President Sylvia Burwell’s Twitter last year, tweeting a selfie with her after the team won the PL championship against Lafayette from Reeves Field.
But with the upcoming field hockey season still hanging in the balance due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Coenen thinks back to the 2019 run that ended with a championship ring as one of her best AUFH memories.
“After losing my first two years, junior year comes around and we actually win the final and win the Patriot League, so that was awesome and I will never forget that,” she said. “I still cry when I see the video and I just miss it so much. I just want to go back and do it all over again.”
Even once her playing days at American are over though, Coenen knows she won’t be finished with hockey. With the opportunity to go home to Europe and keep playing on high-level club teams, the chance at a lengthy career remains open. For a game that she has been playing for most of her life — and one that she excels at in every facet — it will be tough to let go.
Coenen has seen history-book level success here at AU. She holds records and is revered by her teammates. She has seen national level achievement, and she still has the opportunity to keep playing once her collegiate days are finished. But she knows she didn’t get here by herself.
“In the end, we’re a team, I don't do it alone,” Coenen said. “Coaches, everyone at admin, strength and conditioning staff, our trainers, we all do it together. And I know, at the end of the day, there's only a couple names mentioned, and there's only a couple people on the stat sheet, but even people that don't play and never see the field have the biggest contribution to the team.”