The end of Peggy Allen’s 40-year coaching career could be best described as a story tale ending.
In a scene that could have come from a movie, her Cyclones field hockey team won the state title 3-2 in overtime - all the while unbeknownst to them that their longtime head coach was retiring.
On Thursday, Allen and her state championship team - the first of her storied career - were honored at Eastern View High School as they received their state championship rings.
There was laughter, tears and a lot of stories about Allen and her team that seemed destined to win the state title on its third try.
The 3-2 OT victory over Great Bridge in November was the icing on a sweet cake of Allen’s career - one that began in 1979 and stretched two iconic tenures at Culpeper County High School and Eastern View. The win over Great Bridge was her 350th as a coach - and one that gave her the elusive title she had been searching for.
Allen, filled with emotion on Thursday night, greeted her state championship team and players from throughout the years - some that flew in from as far as Iowa to honor their coach.
“It’s bittersweet, we’ve really had a great time and I love working with the kids,” Allen said. “It keeps you young.”
Allen shared hugs with the 2019 team, as they stood on the stage showing off their championship rings.
“This is a special group,” Allen said. “A few years ago we had a team that was 15-0 in the regular season and they didn’t get past the first round of the regions. This team, we got beat twice - Chancellor and JM both thumped us - and the girls right then and there said that’s it.”
The day the girls were having their picture taken for the state championship banner that will hang at EVHS was the day she broke the news that both she and her daughter, longtime assistant coach Marianne Bretschneider, were retiring.
The players were stunned, but for Allen, the time had come. It doesn’t make it any easier, she said, fighting back tears.
“You hate to leave,” Allen said.
The only field hockey coach EVHS has ever known, Allen was feted by players, peers and administrators as a coach that not only shaped teams, but shaped lives.
“It’s well deserved,” Bretschneider said, beaming with pride for her mom.
Goalie Jensen Armstrong gushed about her coach.
“She’s an amazing coach,” Armstrong said. “You pushes you and then some, but it makes you a better player and every year you definitely grow. She sets such high standards and each of you end up achieving them. It just makes you a well rounded player. It also makes you a well-rounded individual and you she will always tell you that. Outside of coaching she just wants to make you an amazing person and she prepares you more for the real world than you could ever imagine.”
What made this EVHS team so close and helped them achieve their goal? Allen’s team building.
“She gets you together as a group from a young age,” Armstrong said. “Most teams don’t start getting close into the season but we get close with Coach Allen when you’re younger. She helps develop that relationship and she drives that home for you.”
Sarah Hatfield, the Cyclones’ leading all-time scorer, was the one who made it all possible with two of three goals in the championship game including the winning tally.
“She had a huge impact on me, she’s the one that got me into the game of field hockey,” Hatfield said. “She’s an incredible woman and I’m just thrilled to share this moment with her.”
The field hockey group wasn’t just a team, she said.
“Our motto for a while has been family and we’re the type of team we lose together and we win together,” Hatfield said. “The chemistry that developed over the season helped us get us to where we are.”
Hatfield’s father, EVHS football coach Greg Hatfield, has been at the school as long as Allen and the two joked about their rivalry that turned into a close friendship. Coach Hatfield praised her for helping raise his three daughters - all who picked up a hockey stick because of the iconic coach.
Former EVHS principal Roger Mello’s daughter Jenny was a member of the first EVHS team, and he said Allen helped define what a Cyclone meant.
“When this school opened I became a field hockey fan for life because that group of girls helped define this place,” Roger Mello said. “You want a fight song? You want 50 girls that know it? It’s Peggy Allen’s girls. As a principal I want to say thank you for helping start this school. As a parent, I want to say thank you for helping me raise my daughter.”
Armstrong summed up the players’ bond with Allen the best.
“I love Coach Allen with all of my heart, she’s just the cutest little thing,” Armstrong said. “She’s just an amazing woman and she’s made me into who I am today.”