Lewiston High School graduate Jenessa Talarico is the Blue Devils’ new field hockey coach. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Jenessa Talarico’s future plans included coaching for some time, but she never thought she would have a field hockey program to call her own at age 24, let alone that program being her beloved alma mater.

Talarico, a multi-sport athlete at Lewiston and University of Maine at Farmington, has been named Lewiston’s varsity field hockey coach, replacing Chelsea Fournier, who resigned after three years at the helm.

Talarico served as Lewiston’s JV coach and Fournier’s assistant the last two years. The Blue Devils finished 4-10-1 last year, losing to Bangor in the Class A North prelims.

“I’d like to help build it up again,” she said.

Talarico played field hockey, basketball and tennis at Lewiston, earning letters all four years in field hockey and basketball prior to graduating in 2014. She traded her tennis racket for a lacrosse stick at UMF while also continuing with field hockey and basketball, and graduated in 2018.

Talarico was part of a rising Lewiston program before, playing center-forward as a junior for a team that earned the No. 5 seed in what was then Class A East just two years after going winless.

Even while at UMF, she continued to follow Lewiston closely, watching younger sister Kasey, now a junior at UMF, play for the Blue Devils. Not that far removed from when she started playing field hockey at summer camps when she was in fifth grade, Talarico believes that transforming Lewiston into a perennially strong program starts at the youth level.

“All of the kids are hard-working kids, but we don’t have the feeder program other towns do,” she said.

Talarico hopes to establish a youth program to get kids into field hockey earlier, as many of Lewiston’s players don’t start playing organized field hockey until middle school. She believes the school’s new turf fields will help with that, and attract girls who want to play at the college level.

Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said he was excited to hire a coach with Talarico’s history with the program and the enthusiasm and energy to take it to new heights.

“It’s great to have someone coming back who had a great athletic career at Lewiston, went on to play at Farmington and had a great career there,” Fuller said. “She helped Chelsea get us back to the playoffs and she can take us to the next step.”

Talarico takes over a Lewiston team that brings nearly everyone back from its first playoff appearance since 2012, her junior year.

“We only lost two kids, so I think the program should be strong again (next year),” said Talarico, who added she’s expecting as many as 20 new freshmen joining the program in the fall.

Talarico said her ultimate goal is to get the community behind Lewiston field hockey and “getting people excited about coming to games.”

Of course, the status of all sports remains up in the air for the summer and fall due to the coronavirus. Talarico has kept in contact with players, encouraging them to get or stay in shape and keeping spirits up for their eventual return to the field. She’s eager to see them in person, even if it’s in small groups at first.

“Right now it’s about getting everybody in step and being in the best shape you can be, and then the stick work and other stuff will come,” she said.

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