Field hockey teammates coach Carrboro High to new success

In the short history of the Carrboro High School field hockey program, the Jaguars had never beaten nearby rivals East Chapel Hill or Chapel Hill High School.

That is, not until Abby Frey came along.

This season Frey, a redshirt freshman on the North Carolina field hockey team, assumed the role as the head varsity and junior varsity field hockey coach at Carrboro High.

Alongside UNC teammate and assistant Carrboro coach Kelsey Kolojejchick, Frey has brought success to the Jaguar squad this year.

Frey and Kolojejchick have been forced to balance their academic and North Carolina field hockey responsibilities in order to devote time to the Carrboro program, but both Tar Heel mentors have helped instill a passion for the game in their team this season.

Carrboro will prove how far it has come when it plays in the first round of the state playoffs Friday.

And no one is prouder of the Jaguars than their Tar Heel coaches.

“We’re just as competitive,” Kolojejchick said. “We just want to win the states just as much as they do. We’re on the sidelines screaming, jumping, cheering for them.

“We just really want to help them in the long run.”

Back to basics

During the summer, Frey helped coach East Chapel Hill’s team at a UNC field hockey camp, and it was then that the redshirt freshman first had the idea to take on the responsibility of being a high school field hockey coach.

The opportunity fell in her lap when UNC assistant coach Grant Fulton informed her that Carrboro High School needed a head coach.

“Grant gave me their information, and I got in contact with the athletic director,” Frey said. “It just went from there. I was head coach right away.”

Kolojejchick soon hopped on board as Frey’s assistant, and the two immediately began with the basics.

“We started off with fundamentals,” Frey said. “They had a lot of work to do on their fundamentals and get their touch on the field.”

Kolojejchick said teaching fundamentals like shooting, trapping and stick skills was important because the Carrboro girls didn’t start playing field hockey until eighth or ninth grade. In northern states, girls begin playing at a younger age.

Frey tried to alter the team’s formation from a 3-4-3 to a more complicated 3-2-3-2, but she had limited success.

“Having it as a 3-2-3-2 was kind of confusing for them with spacing and angles on the field,” Kolojejchick said.

Having to adjust playing styles was a learning experience for Frey. Instead of adhering to the formation she wanted, she adapted to what her team felt most comfortable with and reverted back to the 3-4-3 formation they used the previous year.

Continuing to roll with the punches, Frey and Kolojejchick worked with them to perfect all aspects of that formation in terms of offensive and defensive player roles.

Building a field hockey culture

Frey and Kolojejchick both hail from Pennsylvania, a state that is considered a field hockey hotbed. Eight of the 27 players on UNC’s roster call Pennsylvania home.

Frey’s Pennsylvania upbringing didn’t quite prepare her for the culture shock she would experience as a head coach at Carrboro High School.

“We have a girl (on the team) who’s really good. She has a lot of potential,” Frey said. “But she sometimes walks with the ball, and she’ll be nonchalant.

“Me and Kelsey, in high school, we would have never been caught dead walking at all when we had the ball or we would have sat on the bench. It’s just a whole different mentality.”

Frey inspired her Carrboro team by telling them to come to a UNC field hockey game, where the intensity is higher and the tempo of play is faster.

“They all showed up. They ended up painting their stomachs for (Kelsey) and I,” Frey said. “They made us a bunch of signs, and they were the loudest people in the crowd.”

After witnessing the six-time national champions firsthand, Frey said the Carrboro girls were immediately hooked.

“That game alone inspired them to do better, work on their skills and try to get a faster tempo going,” Frey said. “The rhythm of the game that we play, they wanted to play like that.”

Achieving success

In back-to-back games in the beginning of October, the Jaguars’ field hockey team defeated both East Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill high schools for the first time in history.

“It was really exciting for us,” Frey said. “Our main goals were beating East and Chapel Hill. Now we want to take it further and win state.”

Kolojejchick isn’t surprised at Carrboro’s success — not with Frey at the helm.

“She’s so competitive, and she wants what’s best for everybody,” Kolojejchick said. “She cares about everybody individually and takes into consideration all their problems with playing time or if they’re struggling with their skills or stick work. She takes the time to help them out.”

An injury forced Frey to take a medical redshirt during the 2010 season, a disappointment for the brand new Tar Heel.

UNC coach Karen Shelton said Frey’s involvement with the Carrboro field hockey team has picked up Frey’s spirits.

“At (UNC’s field hockey) camp this summer, she came alive,” Shelton said. “Some players really thrive around younger players and kids, and I think that she’s one of those. To see her thrive in this environment with Carrboro has really been nice to see.”

Frey said although she wants to win, she stresses to her team the importance of building relationships with teammates ­— something Frey has been able to do herself through the coaching experience.

“(Kelsey and I) actually built a really good relationship off of this,” Frey said. “We do everything the same, we talk the same, we like everything the same.

“She could be like one of my best friends, and we found that out through coaching.”

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