Gena Bailey was an emotional wreck during the Olentangy Liberty High School field hockey team's banquet Nov. 6, particularly when she announced to the players that she would not be back as coach.

Gena Bailey was an emotional wreck during the Olentangy Liberty High School field hockey team's banquet Nov. 6, particularly when she announced to the players that she would not be back as coach.

"It was difficult telling the girls," Bailey said. "I couldn't stop crying. You could hear a pin drop when I told them at the end of the banquet. It was so quiet."

Bailey, the only coach the program has had, stepped down because she and her husband, Gabe, will be moving to the Cincinnati area.

"My husband got transferred," she said. "He took another job. It's tough to leave. I started the program. It's my baby. It means the world to me, but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do. I don't want to leave right now when the program is on the way up, but it's the best thing for me and my husband."

Bailey learned about her husband's job transfer in September but chose not to tell her players until after the season.
"I didn't want it to be about me," she said. "It was difficult to keep that to myself the whole season."

Liberty finished 14-4-1, establishing a program record for victories in a season. It had set the previous mark in 2007 when it finished 13-5.

The Patriots also advanced past the second round of the district tournament for the first time. They opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day and defeated Bexley 2-1 in a district semifinal before losing to eventual state runner-up Columbus Academy 4-0 in a district final.

Liberty was 48-43-9 in six seasons under Bailey.

"I'm going to miss her," athletics director Tom Gerhardt said. "She's like one of my babies. She was 21 when I hired her and now she's grown up and married. She was the (junior varsity) coach at Olentangy when I hired her. A lot of people didn't want me to hire her. She was kind of loud and screamed a lot, but that's what I liked about her. She was passionate about the sport.

"I think (field hockey) is one of the best programs in our high school and I think if you asked area coaches, they would tell you that she's one of the best coaches around. She's become a polished coach. She's going to be hard to replace."

Bailey said among the highlights during her tenure were a 1-0 win over Academy on Sept. 4, a 3-2 win over Watterson in 2007, a 1-0 win over Olentangy in the first round of the tournament in 2007 that marked the Patriots' first postseason victory and the win over Bexley in the tournament this season to reach a district final for the first time.

But the program's biggest accomplishment, Bailey said, may be having three players earn all-state. Forward Lex Kondas achieved the honor in 2007 and forward Erica Musson and defender Brittany Burga did so this season.

"That, to me, shows that your program is established," Bailey said.

Gerhardt has begun his search for a coach and hopes to have Bailey's successor named before Christmas.

Liberty loses five seniors in Burga, Musson and midfielders Maria Fortunato, Brenna Novak and Katie O'Sullivan. Musson, who led the team with 23 goals, and Burga were first-team all-Central Ohio, and Fortunato made honorable mention all-Central Ohio.

Expected to return are juniors Emily Case (forward), Emily Frost (forward), Kelsey Musson (forward), Brogan Pilkington (forward), Cassie Rohde (forward) and Katie Wright (goalie) and sophomores Katie Dye (forward), Torie Dye (midfielder/forward), Erinn Gharrity (defender), Sarah Kuney (defender) and K.T. Tallirico (defender).

Katie Dye (9) and Case (7) were second and third on the team in goals and Pilkington had four goals. Kelsey Musson was second-team all-Central Ohio and Wright received honorable mention.

"I know they'll do well and continue to make strides," Bailey said.