Although she announced her retirement on Dec. 13, longtime Penn field hockey coach Val Cloud will officially remain on staff until June. She’ll probably need all that time to clean out her office and return all the phone calls and e-mails she’s received over the past month.
“There are many, many memories in here,” Cloud said while sifting through old photos, plaques and certificates. “I have to decide what to keep and what to throw out.”
No matter what she decides, the memories will remain. For 30 long years, Cloud was part of the Penn field hockey program in all of its glory and frustration — the first 15 years as an assistant coach and the last 15 as head coach.
She has many fond recollections from her time as an assistant from 1980-1995 when Penn won seven Ivy League titles and went to five NCAA tournaments, but her proudest moment came in 2004 when the Quakers stunned Princeton in overtime in the final game of the season to capture a share of the Ivy championship.
To put that last moment in perspective, Princeton had won 10 straight Ivy League titles before 2004 and has won all five since then. The Tigers were — and still are — the undisputed queens of Ancient Eight field hockey.
But in ’04, Penn did the “unthinkable” as Cara Callahan scored an overtime goal with no time left on the clock to lift the Quakers to one of the most improbable wins in the history of the program. Cloud still vividly remembers a parent lifting her up after the game, as well as all “the chaos on the field.”
Beating Princeton, after all, was Cloud’s No. 1 goal every year – even if in some years it seemed impossible.
“We were fortunate in the 80s when we beat them more than they beat us,” Cloud said. “Since then, they’ve really had a dynasty. … They were the team to beat in the league, no question about that. But we know throughout history that dynasties are challenged and taken down. I think that’s everyone’s goal.”
Cloud won’t be around to see the dynasty crumble, if it ever does. But she’s OK with that. The 1969 graduate of Suny-Brockport knew it was time to say good-bye (though she doesn’t like the expression “calling it quits”).
“When the time comes, I think a lot of people in my age group know it’s time,” she said. “It’s like that internal clock in your head. I’m very much at peace with my decision.”
After she’s done cleaning out her office, Cloud’s plans will shift to spending more time with her three young grandchildren, planning her oldest daughter’s wedding and trying to master another sport.
“I joined a golf club and I hope to get my golf score up there,” she said. “I mean down there. It’s already up there!”