March 23, 2011
The following feature appears in the Patriot League's 2011 Women in Sports magazine, produced in conjunction with the 25th celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which was held Feb. 2
By Matthew Dougherty
Patriot League Media Relations Director
Tiffany DeCoff led Holy Cross to the Patriot League women’s soccer title in her senior season in 2000, and still stands among the all-time League leaders in saves, shutouts, save percentage and goals against average.
But it was a performance from her freshman season that DeCoff recalls as her most memorable moment with the Crusader women’s soccer team.
“We were playing Brown and were outshot 25-1, but still won the game 1-0,” DeCoff said. “It’s the type of game you always remember as a goalkeeper.”
While she faced a flurry of shots in the net in women’s soccer, DeCoff occupied the hot corner in her four years on the Holy Cross softball team. She recalls the position getting too hot in a Patriot League game at Bucknell.
“I was creeping up and playing almost right on top of the plate, and there was a line drive right at me,” DeCoff says. “It split open my elbow and I was one of the few games where my parents were not there, so Coach (Bob) Neville was having a good time with that once he realized I was OK.”
Those are just a couple of the countless memories for DeCoff as a two-sport athlete at Holy Cross. She won bookend League titles as the Crusaders claimed the crown in her freshman season in softball and senior campaign in soccer. But perhaps more than the individual moments, the entirety of her unique experience is what DeCoff remembers most of her four years in Worcester, Mass.
“There is no question I made sacrifices, but I don’t regret any of it,” DeCoff said. “During senior year I was also doing student teaching and I didn’t have the free time that most students enjoy. But playing on two teams helps form so many close relationships that I never feel like I missed out socially.”
Playing two sports as a freshman helped DeCoff develop skills that many first-year college students struggle with.
“The most important part was getting time management established,” DeCoff said. “You have to adjust to your schedule and figure out how to manage school, practices and games.”
Division I head coaches often expect their student-athletes to be committed to their sport and their sport alone, so having two coaches agree to allow an athlete to compete in two sports can be an issue — especially with a new coach.
“The first semester of my freshman year, the softball coach who had recruited me left, so I didn’t know how a new coach would feel about me playing two sports,” DeCoff said. “But I never felt a tension being involved in two. Coach Neville was very helpful and cognizant of the fact that I was sensitive to it.
“It’s a physical challenge because it’s hard to get to the offseason practices.”
DeCoff graduated from Holy Cross in 2001, and certainly wasn’t ready for a break after her busy four years in Worcester. She came back to her hometown of Danvers, Mass., to teach high school Spanish, while also serving as the junior varsity girls soccer and softball head coach, and the varsity girls basketball head coach. She took a teaching sabbatical from 2004-06 to get her Masters degree at Boston College and has been back at Danvers ever since.
In the role of high school teacher/coach, DeCoff can be sought after for advice from prospective collegiate student-athletes and she offers this nugget to any students considering the two-sport experience.
“I would say to get ready and brace yourself, because it can be the best ride of your life and you never get to have it again.”