October 6, 2010

Kablam! Zowie Tucker Is Here

By John W. Gearan
Holy Cross Magazine

As a schoolgirl, while she watched Batman and Robin fighting the forces of evil, her name would flash before her eyes: "Kapow, biff, crunch, whap ... ZOWIE!"

In the lexicon of cartoons, "zowie" (pronounced ZOW-ee) is used to express astonishment, especially in response to something sudden or speedy. No name could fit Zowie Tucker more perfectly, though she  pronounces it ZOH-ee, as in Chloe.

"I was a hyperactive kid,'' admits Tucker, newly appointed Holy Cross field hockey coach. "I was a bit of a whirlwind. My parents had me in all kinds of organized sports to try and wear me out so I would sleep.''

Despite the cartoon connection, it's doubtful that her parents had the Dynamic Duo in mind when they chose "Zowie," a name with Celtic (unique) and Greek (life) roots.

Indeed, Zowie turned out to be full of life and unique, not to mention speedy. She would bounce around her hometown of Neath in South Wales, playing field hockey, netball, soccer, table tennis, taking judo lessons and doing almost anything else to stoke her competitive juices.

Born of blue-collar folks, she is a tough-minded, energetic and very athletic woman. After decades on the pick and shovel, her dad, Jonathan, 54, has risen to the position of foreman for an opencast coal-mining company. Her mother, Lynne, 53, is a credit controller for an international window company and "a woman of great wisdom."

"My parents are hard workers and don't believe in shortcuts to success," Tucker says. "They love sports too. Dad played rugby and soccer, and Mom ran track—my sister Sarah played field hockey—so I've had good role models and a lot of support in pursuit of my dreams."

Her athletic talents soon led to recognition in the South Wales Evening Post and beyond. She played for the nine-time Welsh League Champions, competed in the European Club
Championships, represented Great Britain in the Junior Olympics and later sparked Wales in senior international competition.

Her accomplishments as a top-notch goalie caught the eye of the University of Massachusetts. In 1997, Tucker arrived in Amherst, starting in goal as a freshman. As a senior, she became a second-team All-American, leading UMass into the NCAAs for the fourth consecutive season. In her final campaign, Tucker attained a 19-4 record, including 11 shutouts, and posted an amazing 0.66 goals-against average.

After receiving her degree in sports management, Tucker served as a volunteer assistant at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. In 2001 she hooked on with Northeastern University in Boston. In Tucker's nine years of coaching the Huskies, four as an associate head coach, Northeastern posted a 120-74 record. While at Northeastern she earned a master's degree in sports leadership. She has been active as an administrator and coach in the U.S. Field Hockey Association, the sport's governing body.

"I have a passion for sports,'' says Tucker, 33, who recently located to Milford, Mass. "Becoming a head coach at a prestigious college such as Holy Cross has been my goal. Getting paid is a bonus. I prefer a campus where you get to know everyone and can build a support system.''

Tucker "jumped into the deep end" soon after Athletic Director Dick Reagan '76 and Associate Director Ann Zelesky announced Tucker's hiring in mid-July. During her first days, she says folks were saying, "Hi, Zowie," throughout the campus. Baseball coach Greg DiCenzo, an old friend from his days at Northeastern, gave her welcomed guidance.

She got off to a fast start, putting her 21 players, including six freshmen, through rigorous double-sessions as they prepared for their opener against Harvard. She is emphasizing defense, her forte, and developing a winning attitude. With her superior goal-keeping background, Tucker has a keen awareness of offensive ploys and defensive strategies.

"Our vision is to compete successfully against teams in the Patriot League and New England and return to the NCAA playoffs," says Tucker.

Assisting her will be Katie White, whom Tucker recruited when White was a high school senior. White, 2005 New Hampshire team captain, finished a brilliant college career ranked third in UNH career goals scored. She has served as an assistant at Albany and Colgate over the last four seasons. "I've known Katie a long time. She is someone you can trust and shares our vision. She is open, honest and knows the importance of communicating. She will have a strong voice here," Tucker says.

Tucker admits she misses home, the poetic land of Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton, and her close-knit family, especially her darling niece Daisy, just 2.

"But I'm very happy here, pursuing what I love to do," says the dynamic Tucker.

Or as Robin might put it: "Holy Crusader, Batman. Zowie!"

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

John W. Gearan '65 was an award-winning reporter and columnist for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for 36 years. He resides in Rhode Island.