Jennifer Nolan’s involvement with the Nazareth Area High School girls’ lacrosse team is best told through the story of the Blue Eagles’ 2012 season.
Through this spring, Nolan guided Nazareth to two titles while pregnant with her first child, daughter Quinn. After winning the inaugural Lehigh Valley Conference championship with a 10-8 win over Emmaus, the Blue Eagles’ run in the District 11 tournament exceeded its due date.
With Nolan still on the sidelines, Nazareth defeated Parkland 16-5 to win the D-11 title and advance to the PIAA tournament. Three days later, Quinn was born.
“A storm caused the game to be postponed to the next day and I was already past my due date. I remember crying to my husband there and saying, ‘Oh my god, I’m not going to make it, I’m not going to make it,’ and I made it,” Nolan said. “I don’t know if it was because she was inside me, she’s a team player … I went home, my parents were watching Quinn and I went to the States Game the day I was discharged from the hospital. I didn’t want to be there for the girls.”
For the past 15 years, Nolan has been there for her team alongside her husband and assistant coach Regis D’Angelo. Now that Quinn, 10, is joined by two brothers, Camden ‘Buddy’, 7, and Nolan, 3, the longtime coach has left her position to spend more time with her family.
Nolan never expected to be the program’s first head coach when she first entered Nazareth Area High School. The former Hunterdon Central and Goucher College (Maryland) player was preparing to take on an assistant coaching role for the Blue Eagles when they added girls’ lacrosse two years before the sport was sanctioned in Pennsylvania.
“In 2007 (Barry Stolzman) approached me, a parent who had a kid on the team asked me to just come out and help out a few days a week. I thought I could do that,” Nolan said. “Next, I was at the high school meeting with (Alan) Davis, the principal and then athletic director, (Bob) Holland. I thought they just wanted to meet me, but when the meeting was over they gave me the coaching manual and said, ‘You’re the coach.’ I could not believe it.”
A three-time lehighvalleylive.com Coach of the Year (2009, 2010 and 2012), Nolan quickly adjusted to the extra workload as Nazareth won the D-11 title in 2010, the second championship conferred by the district before his two triumphs in 2012 .
“The dedication and dedication of the student-athletes that I’ve enjoyed coaching over the years has always been done with a common thread throughout my coaching career, the girls and their well-being and their happiness and their future,” Nolan said. “I bonded with them … Before I became a mother, I had 40 girls. They were all my children and I became close to many of them.”
How close was Nolan to your players? Twins Kaity and Kelseigh Wiltraut, standout seniors in the 2012 Nazareth squad, are Camden’s godmothers.
After 159 wins, more than any other lacrosse coach in the Lehigh Valley, Nolan made the decision to retire as lacrosse continued to shift from a spring sport to a year-round commitment.
“I miss a lot, and it’s not just in the spring because (his) high school coach requires year-round if you’re playing Winter League and we’re playing Fall Ball,” Nolan said. “They grow up so fast. We’ll be there for them, but at the same time it’s hard because they want us to keep training… 15 springs, I could never get my kids off the bus in the spring; I’ll do that next spring .”
The only factor that might ease Nolan’s conflicted feelings about leaving Nazareth is that in all likelihood, she’ll pass the whistle to longtime rival and friend Michelle Mihalko. Mihalko, who resigned as Easton’s head coach on June 16 after leading the Red Rovers to 147 wins and three championships since their inaugural 2009 season, was announced in a press release by as the Blue Eagles’ next head coach, pending approval by the School Board Ray Ramella, Sports Director of Nazareth.
“We have been training against each other since she started the program at Easton. (Mihalko’s daughters) Natalie and Payton and my Quinn play for the same travel lacrosse teams. We see each other a few days a week and at tournaments and we’ve become friends over the years,” Nolan said. “Our girls are friends and play the sport their mother is really passionate about. I wish her luck; I know she will do a great job.”
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Desmond Boyle can be reached at email@example.com.