Deb Ranieri led the Yeowomen to their first appearance in the North Coast
Athletic Conference tournament in her first season coaching field hockey and
guided the squad to the regular season championship in her second year. Last
season, Ranieri’s team again contended for the NCAC title, missing out on
back-to-back championships by a single goal.
Ranieri’s squads have also experienced individual successes. Since her
arrival at Oberlin in 2002, she has mentored 18 All-NCAC players, including six
who were selected to the first team. Her 2003 and 2004 teams were recognized by
the National Field Hockey Coaches Association for their academic achievements,
and she has coached several players who have earned Academic All-American
MK: You led the Yeowomen to their first appearance in the NCAC tournament
in your first year. You guided your second Yeowoman team to the regular season
championship. In your third season, you contended for the NCAC title, and this
season your team is in first place and gaining national attention. How have you
established the women’s field hockey team as one of the most successful in
the athletics department and the state?
Deb Ranieri: I saw the potential to
build a great field hockey and lacrosse program when I first took the job. Prior
to my arrival, the program lacked consistency in coaching. I want to be here a
long time and compete each year for the North Coast Athletic Conference
championship. I knew that I wanted to compete with a group of student-athletes
who matched Oberlin’s academic caliber, who wanted to play competitive
college field hockey and who would make positive contributions to the entire
MK: You were on the staff at the College of New Jersey when you went 22-0
and won a national championship. How far is this program from competing on a
DR: Last year we really thought going into the season that we
had a good chance to be very competitive and possibly advance to the NCAA
tournament. However, we had a good year but we were just not there physically
and mentally. I sat down in the off-season with the rising seniors and talked
about what we had to do to get better physically, mentally and what it was going
to take to compete for a NCAA birth and build a program with a rich tradition.
This season we have the opportunity to break a lot of school records if we
maintain pace. This team specifically has the potential to be the most
successful team yet.
MK: You have coached at some very unique intuitions, from the College of
New Jersey to Susquehanna University to Lafayette University to the Perkiomen
School to Oberlin College. How does your recruiting strategy differ at each
school and Oberlin College specifically?
DR: My coaching philosophy and
recruiting strategy has always been the same. I want to find student-athletes
who are going to match the mission of each institution. At Oberlin, I am looking
for very talented student-athletes who are gifted in the classroom, on the field
and who can thrive in the community and environment at Oberlin.
MK: Jessica Raynor is an addition to your coaching staff. She previously
was a four-year letter winner for the Yeowomen, a three-time Team Most Valuable
Player and a recent graduate of Oberlin College. How has it been helpful having
a distinguished alumnus who was a student-athlete at Oberlin on your
DR: Jessica has been great. She is very helpful because she knows what
it takes to be successful as a competitive athlete, as a student in this
academic environment and as a community member. She took a lot different classes
while at Oberlin and is helpful in offering suggestions on the classes and
programs she enjoyed.
MK: When you think of field hockey and lacrosse you usually think of
places in New England, Long Island, Pennsylvania and a few select pockets on the
west coast. Has it been difficult to recruit student-athletes to Ohio for this
DR. I have been able to attract student-athletes to Oberlin from all
over the world. As for the state of Ohio, the field hockey and lacrosse presence
is not as strong as the more traditional places like Pennsylvania and New
MK: Do you think it would help if Oberlin were in a conference like the
New England Small College Athletic Conference where we would compete against our
academic peers like Amherst, Williams and Connecticut College?
DR: Last year
we traveled to California to play the Claremont Colleges. This season we are
going to play Bates. I like the NCAC, and there is nothing wrong with being the
most academically rigorous school in the conference. I like to coach
student-athletes who are just as driven in the classroom as they are at their
MK: When I talk to your team they speak as if you are a great friend and
mom away from home. How do you foster these strong bonds and relationships with
DR: I think it is really important to get to know my players
outside of athletics and academics. Most of them have traveled very far to come
here. I think it is important to get to know people and help them out when they
are having a hard day, to recognize their birthdays and to acknowledge their
academic accomplishments. I really want my players to thrive when they are here
but most importantly in the life they lead after Oberlin.
MK: I understand you use a rubber chicken that squeaks in practice?
(laughs): I like to have fun and I thought this would be a great way for the
team to have some fun and work on their communication skills while passing. We
are in the middle of a long season and we need to continue to have fun.