EASTON — Alli Szymanski had talked to her players about chasing dreams.
Now, she’s another step closer to hers.
After two seasons as Easton High’s head field hockey coach — the second ending with the Warriors’ first state semifinal appearance in 10 years — Szymanski has stepped down to accept a position as assistant field hockey coach and assistant director of athletic communications at St. Mary’s College.
“I was given this opportunity to continue growing in my coaching career,” said the 26-year-old Szymanski, who played four years at St. Mary’s, captained the Seahawks her senior year (2016), and was an assistant coach in 2017. “Coaching is something that I love, something that I want to make into a career. So given this awesome opportunity it was something that I couldn’t pass up.
“I was just presented with this really great opportunity from the St. Mary’s athletic department, the Athletic Director, Crystal Gibson, and the head coach, Jessica Lanham,” Szymanski added. “I’m super lucky and really excited to take on both these positions with the college.”
A 2013 Easton High graduate, Szymanski was on the last Warriors team to reach the state semifinals in 2012. After earning her master’s at St. Mary’s, she returned to Easton and was an assistant for the junior varsity in 2019. Szymanski was named head varsity coach in 2020, when former head coach Debbie McQuaid stepped down and retired from education.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 fall season was canceled, but an abbreviated schedule was put together in the spring of 2021. Szymanski directed the Warriors to an 8-2 record her first year at the helm and was eager to begin the next season.
Easton struggled early last season, losing four of its first five games. But the Warriors rebounded, winning eight of nine, which included a thrilling 1-0 double-overtime victory over James M. Bennett in the Class 2A East Region II championship. Easton rolled to a 5-1 victory over Huntingtown in the state quarterfinals before suffering a 3-0 loss in the semifinals to eventual state champion Glenelg.
“I’m really proud of everything that the players have accomplished,” said Szymanski, who was 17-8 over her two seasons. “I attribute all the success of the program to them and their hard work, and what they bring to practice every day, and what they bring to the field every day.
“A lot of my success can also be attributed to my assistant, Edie Bishop,” Szymanski said. “She was a very grounding presence and a very needed presence. And I was also given the program in a really great spot. Debbie McQuaid has always been an amazing mentor to me since I was young and throughout my coaching career, my playing career, everything.”
Szymanski said the decision to leave Easton was difficult, but she was grateful for the support from her family and Easton High Principal Sherry Spurry.
What may have been more difficult though was telling her players at the end of the school year of her departure.
“When I told my players I cried, they cried,” Szymanski said. “It was very emotional because we are very close. And I’m super thankful for those players, for their families.
“I told them I was chasing my dream,” Szymanski continued. “I looked at the girls and I said, ‘I hope one day when you’re my age and you’re given an opportunity to chase your dream that you think of me and you just go for it.’ Because that’s something I’m doing. I’m leaving a place that I’m comfortable in and successful in and going to a place that I’m also comfortable in.”
And while she said leaving Easton is “obviously scary,” Szymanski hopes to bring continued success to the St. Mary’s program.”
“The ultimate goal is to be a head coach one day,” Szymanski said. “I’m really excited to learn and grow under her (Lanham) and all the things I’m going to learn. I definitely have the dream of being a head college coach one day. So that’s the ultimate goal for sure.”