The Fallston field hockey team advanced at least to the state semifinals in all four years after Alice Puckett stepped down as coach, winning three state championships.
Although the Cougars’ success has continued since Puckett retired after winning her 11th state title in 2008, the longtime coach will return to roam the sideline once again this season.
“This is true, it's true,” Puckett said about her return to Fallston. “Nobody else wanted the job, so I'll just come back. [Fallston athletic director] Dave Cesky offered me the job in January when everyone else had resigned. I was excited to accept it.”
Puckett left Fallston five years ago to watch her daughter, Lindsey, play field hockey in college at Maryland.
“I really wanted to go to all of her games,” Puckett said. “There's no way that could have happened if I hadn't given it up.”
Megan Grant initially took over for Puckett, leading the Cougars to two state championships in three years as coach — Class 2A in 2009 and Class 1A in 2011. Then, Maddie Palko replaced Grant last season, and Fallston won the Class 1A state championship once again, beating Crisfield, 2-0, in the title game.
While Palko made the decision not to return this fall, she was happy to turn the program over to the coaching legend.
“When Megan Grant came in and told me she was pregnant and asked me to take over, I was like, ‘oh yeah, sure,’ not really realizing what I was getting myself into,” Palko said. “But when I stepped back, I wasn't sure if Megan was going come back or not.
“I didn't even know that Puckett was considering coming back, but it was definitely a plus surprise. You know, if you're going to walk away from the program, it's nice to know that the one that kind of gave it its reputation is the one that is coming back for it.”
So, why would Puckett come back?
“Well, you know, teaching is one thing, but coaching is the ultimate way to really work with teenagers and get to know them and maybe give something to them that you can't in the classroom. There are so many rules and regulations,” said Puckett, who has taught 30 years in the physical education department at Fallston.
Puckett has a 340-63-18 record in 26 seasons as Cougars coach. This season, she expects Fallston to encounter tough competition in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
“We have a nice group of kids there right now,” Puckett said. “We may not have the best hockey players in [Harford County] right now — there's some really elite talent at C. Milton Wright and Patterson Mill — but we have a really good group of student-athletes that are willing to work and are smart kids. And now we are allowed to coach them in the summer. Things have really changed.”