Kayla Treanor’s coaching style improved during her tenure at Boston College

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Boston College assistant coaches Jennifer Kent and Sam Apuzzo had finished practice when Syracuse head coach Kayla Treanor and assistant Kenzie Kent visited.

Treanor and Kent, Jennifer’s daughter, coached at BC a year ago. But when Jennifer saw Treanor and her daughter, she didn’t feel excited. She was nervous.

“There was a lot going on,” Jennifer said. “Of the simple construction of the game and its meaning.”

Jennifer recalled when she and Treanor prepared and strategized for opponents every day, and Treanor amazed Jennifer with his knowledge of offensive strategies and tendencies. Those connections helped Treanor become the coach she is, participating in a Syracuse program that complimented her coaching style.

Treanor improved BC coaches and players, culminating in the Eagles 2021 national championship, Jennifer and Apuzzo said. And it was only because her alma mater called that she left, all because of the connections she made in Chestnut Hill.

“A lot of coaching is about relationships,” Treanor said. “I was really lucky when I was there to have a great relationship with the coaching staff and also with the players.”

Treanor’s relationship to British Columbia was first developed and expanded during discussions of his coming to Chestnut Hill. The initial conversation to go to BC was in the Dome parking lot in 2017. Then No. 6 Syracuse and unranked Boston College played in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Apuzzo, a player at the time, scored five goals in an upset victory for the Eagles, who featured in their first of four consecutive national championships since 2017.

Treanor, then an assistant at Harvard, was with her family returning to the car when they met Boston College head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein. According to Treanor’s father, Mark, she and Walker-Weinstein discussed Treanor becoming an assistant offensive coach for the Eagles. Jennifer said the BC staff wanted Treanor even when she was playing SU, which led to Treanor getting an interview and eventually an offensive coordinator role.

At Harvard, Treanor began to form his coaching style. Harvard’s 2017 leading scorer, Marisa Romeo, said Treanor brought visualization to the team, something she learned from her time as a player under head coach Gary Gait.

Treanor showed players some movement dodging. It was a new concept for the Crimson, but Treanor’s style was already established at Boston College and the Eagles were anticipating his arrival. Apuzzo said many players, including herself, have watched Treanor grow.

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When Treanor first arrived in British Columbia, she and Apuzzo focused on the coin toss, something she wasn’t specifically focused on until Treanor arrived. Treanor focused on getting the ball in spots around the circle and learning how to defend against another draw specialist, Apuzzo said.

“She taught me a lot of different specific drawing techniques that I didn’t even know existed or could even be done,” Apuzzo said.

Apuzzo gained confidence on the draw, which improved his shot and made the draw game more reliable. Treanor emphasized Apuzzo’s left-handed shots, training together consistently. And in 2018, Apuzzo combined everything she learned to become BC’s first Tewaaraton Award winner.

Treanor also coached BC’s second Tewaaraton winner, Charlotte North. North idolized Treanor, sometimes replicating his moves she saw in videos online. In 2021, North scored an NCAA-record 102 goals, breaking the record in the national championship game against Syracuse.

At the time, Apuzzo was a graduate assistant for the Eagles and recalled how Treanor’s coaching skills helped players in the crease. Treanor showed coaches and players how to attack defenders whenever they were in zone or man-to-man defense, Apuzzo said.

Jennifer applied the same ideas to the Eagles defense as well. The defensive coordinator took what she learned from Treanor’s attention to detail in studying the film and applied it to her new position. Treanor’s mindset complemented Walker-Weinstein’s. Mark said Boston College, and Walker-Weinstein in particular, developed Treanor’s ability to see the game without getting drawn into the details.

“Treanor learned a lot about management and how to talk to kids,” Mark said. “(Treanor and Walker-Weinstein’s) skills complemented each other and they were both smart enough to realize that.”

Treanor led British Columbia to the 2018 and 2019 national championships, but the Eagles lost both. After every title match loss, there was constant self-reflection, especially when it came to one-on-one matchups, Jennifer said. And in the 2021 National Championship game against SU, Boston College took advantage of one-on-one play.

On the first goal of the league game, North sprinted behind the net as Ella Simkins applied pressure. North leaned back to create space for a shot, beating goalkeeper Asa Goldstock. North finished with a record six goals to propel Treanor and BC to their first national championship.

Mark recalled the party after the match, where Treanor was able to share his joy with the team. Treanor had no intention of leaving BC, but Gait later joined the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team. Treanor’s decision to leave was only because coaching her alma mater was something she couldn’t pass up.

“There are few places where Treanor would have left Boston College,” Mark said. “And Syracuse was one of them because it was her home.”

Contact Henry: [email protected]