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NH College Notebook: Bowdoin's O'Neil named New England Hockey Coach of the Year

April 13. 2013 9:15PM

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Marissa O'Neil of Manchester has turned out to be a solid collegiate women's head ice hockey coach at Bowdoin College. After all, she had a great role model in her father, Joe O'Neil, who coached Manchester High Central to a combined 28 NHIAA state titles in cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field.

As a kid, Marissa was around her dad and watched how he coached his teams.

"Just seeing how he accomplished so much, and how he balanced his family life and coaching, really rubbed off on me," Marissa O'Neil said of Joe. "He coached me for two seasons in spring track, and his actions and presence always stuck with me. He's someone I still respect and look up to very much."

In just her third season, O'Neil led the Polar Bears to a 21-5-2 record, earning All-New England Coach of the Year honors. Her team won the NESCAC title with a 2-1 road win against Middlebury College and gained an NCAA Division III quarterfinal home game, which resulted in a 4-0, season-ending loss to Elmira (N.Y.) College.

O'Neil is no stranger to Bowdoin, having played four seasons for the Polar Bears. The 2003 team on which she played was the last Bowdoin team to qualify for the NCAA tournament before this year, and Bowdoin's 21 wins this past season represented its best win total since that 2003 season.

After graduating in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in sociology, O'Neil quickly became an assistant ice hockey and field hockey coach at St. Anselm College for one season. She then moved on to become the assistant athletics director at Middlesex School, a private secondary school in Concord, Mass.

From there, she returned to the college coaching ranks as an assistant at Amherst, where she helped lead the women's hockey team to a NESCAC title in 2008 and an NCAA championship in 2009, and also earned a master's degree in sports management. In 2010, she got her first head coaching job, taking over at Amherst's chief rival, Williams College, and leading the Ephs to a 12-11-2 record after they went 8-16-1 the season before her arrival.

But her stay at Williams came to an end after she learned her alma mater was looking for a head coach.

"When the Bowdoin (job opened up, I didn't have to think too long," she said. "I played and graduated from the school, still have pride in the program. My academic and athletic philosophies are completely in line with the school. It's a great fit for me, and I couldn't be happier."

While her father's influence on her interest in athletics is obvious, O'Neil gives much of the credit for her love of hockey to her mom, Cindy.

"My parents built a rink in our backyard. I started to have a passion for hockey, and it didn't hurt that my mom loved the sport" Marissa said.

O'Neil's development as a player began in the Manchester Flames youth program, in which she participated at different levels for nearly a decade. In high school, she played two years on the boys' hockey team at Central under then-coach Rene Leclerc.

She left Central after her sophomore season and transferred to Kimball Union Academy in Mereden, where she repeated her sophomore year and played hockey for three seasons.

"I was a forward throughout all those years, just loved to score," she said.

Then it was off to Bowdoin, where she had a successful playing career.

"We qualified for the NCAA tournament all four years," said O'Neil, who still ranks fourth in school history with 133 points (55 goals, 73 assists).

In 2005 she was recognized as Bowdoin's most outstanding female athlete, receiving the Lucy L. Shulman Award. She was a three-time all-NESCAC honoree and was named to the 2003 NCAA Division III all-tournament team.

O'Neil said she plans on dusting off the Shulman Award, which is tucked away in the basement of her parents' home. "I plan on displaying it in my office for all to see," she said with a laugh.

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The state's two Division I football programs, the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College, are in the middle of their spring football sessions and each is heading to a final scrimmage on Saturday, May 4.

In Hanover, as in Durham, a couple of young quarterbacks are vying to see who will lead the team as the No. 1 signal caller in the fall.

UNH has Andy Vailas, a junior-to-be out of Bedford and Phillips Andover, and Sean Goldrich, who will be a sophomore. Goldrich won the starting job last season as a redshirt freshman. But he was knocked out of the second game of the year against Minnesota and Vailas came on and played well.

They split the quarterbacking chores for much of the season.

Vailas completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,558 yards and 18 touchdowns and had three interceptions. Goldrich completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,202 yards and eight touchdowns and three five picks.

Alex Park, who will be a junior and transferred in from UNH, started Dartmouth's first seven games and then got hurt. Dalyn Williams, who played in every game, started the final three.

Park completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,370 yards and seven touchdowns and was intercepted six times. Williams completed 64 percent of his passes for 974 yards and seven touchdowns and did not throw an interception.

UNH and Dartmouth schedule most of their weekday spring practices for Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Wildcats usually go in the early morning and the Big Green at 4:45 p.m. Both practice on Saturday mornings as well.

Dartmouth's Green-White scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. on May 4 and UNH's Blue-White game is at 12:30 p.m. that day.

The Wildcats finished 8-2 last year and open the 2013 season at Central Michigan on Sept. 7 and play their home opener against Colgate on Sept. 14.

Dartmouth, 6-4 last season, opens at Butler on Sept. 21 and plays Holy Cross in its first game at home on Sept. 28.

UNH and Dartmouth are scheduled to play a pair of games over three seasons starting in 2014. They meet in Durham on Sept. 27, 2014 and in Hanover on Sept. 17, 2006.

They last played in 2009 and the Wildcats knocked off the Big Green, 44-14, in Durham.

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ANOTHER former local high school athlete made college coaching news last week when Kelly Fox joined the staff of St. Anselm College men's and women's cross-country head coach Paul Finn as an assistant.

Fox, who starred as a runner at Londonderry High and the University of New Hampshire as Kelly Feibel, most recently coached at Manchester High Central.

"Since leaving high school coaching, I have been looking to become involved at the collegiate level," Fox said in a St. A release. "I am so thankful to be a part of the St. Anselm coaching staff and very excited to work with the athletes."

Fox, who was named the Class L (now Division I) Coach of the Year in 2009 by the New Hampshire Union Leader, was the head coach of both the cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams at Central for 10 years. Her cross-country squad captured three straight state titles (2008-10), and her track and field teams won back-to-back championships (2009-10) during her time at Central.

Fox has served as the site director for the NHIAA Division I, II and III cross country championships at Manchester's Derryfield Park since 2007.

At UNH, Fox received all-New England and all-America East Conference accolades.

A Londonderry native, she resides in Hooksett with her husband, Brian, and their 2-year-old daughter, Katelynne.

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DARTMOUTH men's soccer coach Jeff Cook resigned Friday to accept a position with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.

Cook was Dartmouth's coach for 12 years, and his teams posted an overall record of 106-74-31. He led the Big Green to five Ivy League titles and seven NCAA tournament appearances.

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Kelsey Mattson, a graduate of Bristol's Newfound Regional High, was among four Bentley College players picked for the Academic All-Northeast-10 Conference field hockey team. Mattson, a key member of the Falcon defense and a team captain, was a three-year starter who didn't miss a game over her final three seasons. Her contributions helped Bentley to a 1.79 goals-against average and five shutouts.Bentley finished with an 11-8 record and qualified for the NCAA Division II Championships.

"NH College Notebook" is compiled by the New Hampshire Union Leader staff. Email information to

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