October 25, 2021

Red Dragons’ coach comes full circle

Hubbard picked up sport as an eighth-grader at Cortland St. camp

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

SUNY Cortland field hockey coach Tiffany Hubbard watches her team from the sidelines against St. John Fisher Oct. 8 at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. Hubbard just completed her fourth season as the Red Dragons’ coach in a career that has completed a full circle from Marathon Central School to the University of Maryland and back home to Cortland.

Tiffany Hubbard was a soccer player before she began her field hockey career, but one conversation led to her becoming a New York State champion at Marathon Central School (2001), an NCAA Division I National champion at the University of Maryland (2005), a successful player on numerous levels of international play and now head coach for the SUNY Cortland field hockey team.

It was a surreal moment for Hubbard from those early beginnings, as Tiffany Marsh, to coaching her fourth season with the Red Dragons in 2019.

“Surreal is exactly how I explain it especially when I am talking to recruits and explaining my background,” Hubbard said. “Having it, literally, come all the way back to the place where I first picked up a stick. Cortland State was my first field hockey camp with Karen Funk when I was going into eighth grade. So that’s where it really all started. Looking back at the past, it feels like it all happened exactly how it was suppose to. I think that is why I am genuinely happy and so invested in Cortland. Being around family, especially when you have children, kinda puts it all in perspective.”

That family now includes her husband of six years, Jay, and their two children, Joshua (4 years old) and Joelle (3 years old). Hubbard’s parents, Ray and Karen Marsh, are still living in the Cortland area.

Field hockey was introduced to Hubbard by veteran Marathon coach Karen Funk.

“I was a stubborn soccer girl before Marathon had soccer,” Hubbard said. “Mrs. Funk asked me to try it. As long as she’s been there, she can identify athletes quick. She thought it was something I could pick up fast. To be very frank about it, it was
fun because it seemed easy to me. It was never something that seemed like it was hard work. If it’s easy, it’s fun. If you’re winning, it’s fun, so why not keep rolling with it. With every phase I went to including U.S. stuff, the Futures team, the Junior Olympics, every team I went to it clicked because when you’re good and you’re having fun and you’re winning, it’s like a domino effect. It keeps you going. I never would have imagined field hockey would be in my life in the capacity that it is in this stage of my life. I never had huge aspirations to coach, like that’s what I want to do, but that happened very naturally too.”

While being a player, Hubbard never thought about a coaching career.

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE

“When you’re finally done (playing), and granted we went out on a high note (at Maryland with a national championship) and hung up the stick type of deal, you think that’s it,” Hubbard said. “I didn’t touch my stick for four months and suddenly you’re not around it, it’s like a punch in the gut. Wow, I really miss it so how can I be around it. Where can I coach and that fell in my lap at the right time in my life. Now as you get older, you see the game in a completely different way. It’s much more challenging as a coach not being in control, but it’s also rewarding in ways I could not have imagined. While I never pictured this as part of my life, I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life now. All over one simple conversation in the women’s locker room with Mrs. Funk when I was in seventh grade. That kinda blows me away when I think about, things easily could have been so different.”

Barely out of college, Hubbard got an assistant coaching job at American University for one year, helping guide the Eagles to a 14-7 record and and a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2006. She was named interim head coach at Georgetown for the 2007 season and named the Hoyas head coach after that season.

Prior to coming to Cortland in 2016, Hubbard did have a stop at Ohio University as associate head coach in 2014 and 2015. All the experience has been worth it.

Every year at Cortland has been so different, including her 2019 team.

“The first year it was all so fresh not knowing the girls,” Hubbard said. “In 2017, we had our NCAA run and last year we graduated six seniors (three of them were All-Americans).

As for her 2019 squad, the Red Dragons were 16-4 overall, 5-1 in SUNYAC play. Cortland lost to Geneseo in the SUNYAC championship game in double overtime. The Red Dragons set a new school record with 10 overtime games, winning nine of them.

YEARLY CHANGES

“We had a large senior class, but a lot of our experience was young,” Hubbard said. “Every year has been so different. You just try to give every year that respect it deserves and let it find its own identity. They were young in experience on the field, but they stepped up. It’s been crazy, it’s been rewarding and it’s been fun. They were like sponges and absorbing it all. Every game is different and every game they were learning something new.”

Through four seasons, Hubbard has a 61-18 record. Her teams have two SUNY regular season championships, one SUNYAC tournament champion- ship and she was the SUNYAC Coach of the Year in 2017.

Hubbard has also learned about coaching every position after being an offensive-minded person in her playing days. It wasn’t as hard a transition as you would think.

“I played a lot of midfield at Maryland especially my junior year,” Hubbard said. “I think a lot of forwards surprise themselves that they are better at defense than they think. They just don’t like it because they aren’t scoring. I totally get that, but when you break it down, you figure it out because you are always going against another player. You are figuring out how to beat them so, in my mind I’m thinking, what would I do against myself. What do I have to do to stop me. So I flip the script and look at it from the other side. It kinda takes off more naturally than I thought it would. I’m an attack minded person. I want this same attitude that as a defender I want my team to have that same attitude. I don’t want the ball (here), I want to get it up field. They all need to have their own identity, but know they are all speaking the same language.”

Being so involved with the Division I level as a player and coach prior to taking the job at Cortland, it the level of competition any different at a Division III school?

“I think you can break it down to a different skill level at each level,” Hubbard said. “At Maryland I was at a top five school.Coaching at Georgetown was a different level where we only had two scholarships and we didn’t even have a field. I’ve seen the top and bottom of just D1. That’s a big range. Cortland rivals a lot of those D1 schools are far as facilities, resources and the athletes you are getting. You are getting an athletic blue collar kid who is ready to learn as much as they can and are still eager to win.”

“Someone asked me why I was falling in love with Cortland just as hard as I was with Maryland, which surprises me because I am a Terp. What are those similarities? It was an easy answer –– everyone wants to win –– so it’s not a difference between Division I and Division 3 play. You are coming to a program at Cortland with a reputation and a history of winning and people are drawn to that. It’s intoxicating because you crave winning, you crave championships and what do I have to do to get there. That’s the same philosophy we had at Maryland. Sure the level is different, but the sport and the athleticism and that grit is still the same. I know that feeling so let’s go.”

Though the 2019 season is over, Tiffany Hubbard is not resting. She is planning for the 2020 season and beyond with the Red Dragons.