When Amanda Allen asked Jenna Marie Colicchia for some summer reading material, the Robbinsville High field hockey coach suggested “Toughness” by former Duke basketball player and ESPN commentator Jay Bilas.
At the start of preseason practice, Colicchia told each player to pick one word for the season that they needed to focus on. Allen went right to her book title and chose “toughness.”
“It seemed funny to me, because I think of her as one of the toughest players on our team,” the coach said. “Thinking that the word toughness is her focus and something that can drive her, that’s something that resonated with me.”
The junior center-midfielder agreed with her coach, to an extent. She felt that she was somewhat tough on the field but realized there was always room for improvement, such as mental toughness.
“I wanted to focus on getting over mistakes; and if I’m not playing well, being there for my teammates, putting my performance aside to focus on the team’s goal,” Allen said. “Also, whenever we’re doing a hard run, it will pop in my head that ‘This is just a run, you have to get through it.’ That pops in my mind when I need an extra push.”
Allen said the strategy has been working and she gives props to Bilas’ inspirational prose.
“I really loved the book,” she said. “I wanted to read something that would improve my mental game rather than just working on stick stuff for the summer. Even though it was basketball focused, it provided a lot of insight into what it takes to be a truly good player. How it’s more than just your skills. Sometimes the more skilled people aren’t as good because there are other people with stronger mentalities who are more tough. It gives them an edge on other people.”
‘She was such a standout performer. She’s constantly improving.’
Fortunately for Robbinsville, Allen provides both talent and toughness.
Allen began playing field hockey at Pond Road Middle School in sixth grade, following twin sisters Jess and Courtney into the sport. Both are now playing lacrosse and field hockey in college, with Courtney at Muhlenberg and Jess at The College of New Jersey.
When she arrived at RHS, Allen began her freshman season on JV but got called up toward the end of the season. Her impact was so immediate that she was named Rookie of the Year.
“You could just see her progress so quickly,” Colicchia said. “She was such a standout performer. She’s constantly improving.”
Last season, Allen collected five goals and one assist to finish third on the team in scoring. She earned the Raven Award, given to the player who displays certain characteristics that embody the team mentality and what it means to be a Robbinsville Raven.
Her efforts helped Robbinsville to a 13-2-1 record, with the Ravens only losses coming to state powers Lawrenceville in the Mercer County Tournament and Rumson-Fairhaven in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Tournament.
Allen felt the exposure to such outstanding players can only help Robbinsville this season.
“Playing a team like Lawrenceville made us realize what kind of talent is out there and what we need to improve upon to beat teams like that,” she said. “I’m really excited for the upcoming season. I think our team’s clicking really good and we have a chance of being really successful this year.”
Colicchia feels the same way despite having to move some players around. She was pleased to find that no one actually complained about switching from their comfort zone.
Shea Walsh returns as the leading scorer after collecting 17 goals and five assists last year. Megan Testa joins Allen in the midfield, while Andrea Pintimalli, Hannah James and goalies Laura Redler and Olivia Moser will anchor the defense.
“I always hope it’s gonna be a good season,” Colicchia said. “You can tell the girls who are here want to be here and want to improve, so that’s all I can ask for. It looks like if they keep putting in the effort they’re putting in now, they’re going to be successful.”
Helping lead the way will be Allen, who sets an example with just her presence.
“She’s a big distributor for us and she hustles all over the field,” Colicchia said. “Sometimes I have to yell at her to stay in one spot. She’s one of those players that wants to be everywhere. As a coach, you love that. She’s just always hustling, and she’s a team player. She’s very unselfish, which is very good to have for someone who’s in the center of the field because they have to do a lot of different jobs.”
It is a role that Allen embraces, as she has played center-midfield her entire career.
“I love running up and down the field and doing everything I can, so it’s a good fit,” she said. “Statistically I don’t really have any goals. I just want to be someone the team can always rely on to calm everyone down and control the game, and always be there as a back-up for anyone. I don’t really care about the stats. It’s just a matter of keeping everyone together, comfortable and calm during games.”
Allen does all that thanks to an uncanny field sense. She has the ability to know where everyone is on the field and is excellent at getting the ball back if either she or a teammate loses it.
“Everyone knows that if she’s behind you, she has your back and the ball’s not getting through her,” Colicchia said. “She has a lot of her sisters’ characteristics. They’re all very competitive, which is great because when they’re home in the summer she plays with them. They’re all about the same kind of hustle, the hard work. It runs in the Allen blood, I’m pretty sure.”
Allen is also a player who will bring an entire ball bag out to the field after practice in order to work on her shooting, which Colicchia feels is a contagious attitude. This summer Allen honed her game further by playing club hockey, which she felt provided a better game sense.
Her biggest problem is going to be what sport to choose in college. Although her sisters are doing both, Allen plans on majoring in pre-med and doesn’t feel she will have the time to devote to both.
“You talk to her during field hockey season she wants to play field hockey in college,” Colicchia said. “You talk to her in lacrosse and she wants to play lacrosse. It’s hard to tell what she’ll do because she’s a stud in lacrosse and she’s getting better and better in field hockey.”
“It’s going to be hard to choose,” Allen said. “Whatever season I’m in, that’s the sport I love. But I kind of have to make a choice.”
In this case, it’s most likely a choice with no wrong answer.