St. Dom’s field hockey coach Jennifer Brown, right, runs practice at the Auburn high school. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — After a one-year “apprenticeship” under longtime coach Brian Kay, Jennifer Brown has taken over the St. Dom’s field hockey team as the Saints try to defend the Class C state championship in 2018.

Brown, a Freeport native, went to North Yarmouth Academy before playing lacrosse at the Division II level with Saint Anselm, where she played from 2013-2016. She also coaches the Coastal Field Hockey Club and helps with the Bates College team when she can.

People around her knew one day she would end up on the sidelines as a coach.

“I got into it in my sophomore year of college. I started coaching Coastal Field Hockey Club then and I have ever since,” Brown said. “That got me introduced to it and people always told me I should coach. I said ‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ I feel like I fell into it, but I grew strongly and grew a love for it, is what I am trying to say.”

Kay, who had coached the Saints for 18 seasons, has been around this preseason to check to see how Brown and the players are doing. He is still involved with the program, as he helps with the upkeep of the softball field, where the field hockey team plays in the outfield.

For the players, not much has changed with the transition of leadership.

“I think it was definitely an easy transition,” senior forward Paige Cote said. “We are doing a lot of the same drills that she brought in last year and the same positive energy … she brings to practice and the same intensity. So I think it will be very good.”

There are differences between Brown and Kay, however.

“Coach Kay is a little more laid back, it’s more, I don’t know, lets have fun,” senior forward Kylie Leavitt said. “Jen is more let’s have fun and get it done right. There was a happy medium last year and we are all going for it this year.”

Brown is taking over a different Saints team this year, as they graduated six players from the 18-0 state championship squad, including Hannah Trottier-Braun, who scored 59 of the Saints’ 143 goals last season.

The team understands if they want to defend their state championship, they will have to grind out victories in 2018.

“Our goal is to be more positive on the field and keep playing our game — not necessarily win as big of margins,” Cote said. “We want to play our game like we have been playing it. Our passing game, have dribbling and not have negativity or anything (like that) on the field.”

Brown is glad to see her veterans take that mentality. Make no mistake about it, they have high goals this season and hope to get back to the state championship game.

The players who are returning from last year’s squad are looking forward to helping the younger and newer players out this season.

“We (know) we have to step up this year and really be the leaders,” Leavitt said. “We aren’t following the footsteps of others. We are the leaders now and we are doing it well, I think. If they have any questions, they are always going to us first before going to Coach Brown. I think we are doing our job pretty well.”

Brown said she has been mixing the younger and older players during drills so they can start working together.

To fill her old role as the assistant coach, Brown stayed “in house” to fill the position, knowing how important it will be with the amount of new players the team will have this year. Michelle Archer, who has been coaching the middle school team, has moved up the high-school level.

Brown said she and Archer complement each other well.

“I think having Michelle is key because she has known them them from their middle-school years,” Brown said. “The ninth graders, the tenth graders she knows really well from when they played for her. Them moving up with her is really great, she already got that insight with them.”

St. Dom’s field hockey coach Jennifer Brown, left, played against the Saints while a high school student at North Yarmouth Academy. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Saints are the defending Class C state champions. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Saints are the defending Class C state champions. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)