RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician College graduate Nicole Degenhardt '11 of Secaucus was named the 2011-12 Women's Basketball Coach of the Year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) last month. She was honored in her first season as the head coach of the College of Saint Elizabeth.
Degenhardt, 23, guided Saint Elizabeth, an NCAA Division III institution in Morristown, to won-lost records of 16-10 overall and 13-5 in the NEAC. The Screaming Eagles hosted the first NEAC playoff game in school history. According to the Saint Elizabeth athletics website, Degenhardt is just the second female to be named NEAC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year.
"When I got the job, I knew I had a lot of work to do," Degenhardt said. "The team lost two key seniors the previous year and I was not sure what I was walking into. But the girls truly bought into what I was saying and jumped on board. I had a wonderful group of talented young ladies who will do great things in their future. I could not be more proud of all their accomplishments."
Degenhardt played one season of basketball at Felician, as a fifth-year senior in 2010-11, but left her mark elsewhere in the athletics department. A four-year starter in both volleyball (setter) and softball (shortstop/outfield), she was an all-Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) honoree in both sports. She holds the softball school record for runs scored in a season (33 in 2010) and is Felician's all-time assist leader in volleyball (2,535).
She was simply trying to break into college coaching when the opportunity at Saint Elizabeth arose.
"I first got hired for the assistant softball coaching job," Degenhardt said. "I wanted to get involved as much as possible in the athletic department, so I applied for and received the assistant basketball coaching job too. When they told me the head coaching job was opening up, I never thought I would have ever gotten it because of my age, but I figured I would apply just to see."
Degenhardt is still the assistant softball coach for the Screaming Eagles, working under former Felician assistant Dave Majewski. She is employed full-time as a math teacher at Wood-Ridge High School.
Coincidentally, Felician women's basketball coach Steve Fagan, for whom Degenhardt played last year, was honored with the 2011-12 Coach of the Year award from the CACC.