The Nantucket Athletic Department announced Tuesday morning that Andrew McNeilly will take over as the new varsity girls hockey head coach after former head coach Liz Collins stepped down from the position in September after four years of leading the program - beginning in its inaugural year.
McNeilly said he is excited for the opportunity to lead the program and get back to being around the game he loves on a day-to-day basis.
“I was helping out Liz before the season got going and I kind of saw the culture she built," McNeilly said. "Then when I saw the job posting Cassie (Thompson, assistant head coach) and one of the parents had come up to me and asked me if I'd be interested. It's really something I never thought I would do but you know, helping them out in the fall was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. So when I saw the opportunity and everything Liz did I just knew it would probably be a good time to throw my hat in the ring and see what happens.”
McNeilly played hockey at Silver Lake High School and was a member of the school’s Class of 2014. He is a full-time Nantucket police officer on island – having moved here in 2018. He assisted Collins with hockey practices/clinics over the course of his time on island during the off-seasons and has also been a referee. He said he is embracing this new challenge of coaching a team and met with his players Tuesday afternoon.
“They seem excited,” he said. “It seems like we have a very young team, which I'm looking forward to because one of the things I really want to do is build the girl's youth hockey program out here and have a good foundation coming for the years to come. Building that culture where the next generation of girl hockey players on Nantucket really want to strive.”
Collins said she is excited to see what McNeilly can do behind the bench and was complimentary of his work with the girls in fall camps where she had a firsthand experience as to what he can bring as a teacher of the game to the players.
“Congratulations to Andrew. I am very happy and excited for him,” she said. “Andrew has been helping me coach the girls the past few offseasons. He did a fantastic job with them then and he will continue to do so now as a head coach.”
Collins said it was a very difficult decision to step down from the position. After a successful hockey career at Duxbury High School where she won four state championships before moving on to play Div. 1 hockey at Sacred Heart University for four years, she got into coaching as an assistant with Duxbury's program before stepping away after making the decision to move to Nantucket full-time. She knew she wanted to pounce on the chance to help Nantucket High School build a girls hockey program when the opportunity presented itself. She is proud to have been the first head coach in program history and is hoping for nothing but success moving forward.
“Four years ago former athletic director Chris Maury approached me about starting the women’s varsity ice hockey team on Nantucket, and I couldn’t have said yes faster,” she said. “To this day it was the best decision I ever made. Starting this program was an unreal experience for me and something I’ll never forget. The friendships I have made and the connections I made with my athletes is truly something unexplainable. The Whaler community is an amazing community, but the Whaler hockey community is something special and something I am so proud to say I was a part of.
“To the girls and the parents, thank you for everything. You all have a special place in my heart. Good luck this season girls. I’ll be cheering for you.”
As for McNeilly, he looks forward to bringing a different perspective to the bench to blend with what Collins brought and installed in the culture of the program.
“I'm excited to come in and try to bring in a different type of hockey culture that they may not have had in the years past with me being a different coach than Liz and us having different hockey experiences,” he said. “I went to Silver Lake and I sat in Duxbury's shadow for a few years watching them win a couple of state championships. I had a little bit of a different perspective of the game. I think it's definitely going to be a unique experience bringing what I learned from playing hockey off-island and playing boys and men's hockey my entire life and making that transition into women's hockey. I think it is going be a good experience and a unique outlook.”
The Athletic Department said in their announcement that McNeilly’s dedication to the game of hockey and commitment to the development of the island’s young student athletes make him the perfect fit for their program.
“As the head coach, we trust that he will lead the girls hockey team in focusing on skill development, teamwork, and fostering a positive and supportive environment for all players,” the department said. “Under his guidance, we are confident that our girls hockey team will achieve new heights and continue to be a source of pride for our school.”