One-on-one with women’s hockey head coach Liz Keady Norton

The Big Green is off to an 8-10 start in Keady Norton’s first season with the team.

by Heath Monsma | 1/10/22 2:05am

Source: Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

Just past the midway point of the regular season, the women’s hockey team is on pace for its best record in eight years after an 8-10 start. Some credit is due to breakout stars such as Sydney Herrington ’23, a first-year transfer from Northeastern University who was recently named ECAC player of the month. The key to the team’s strong start, however, has been its overall player consistency. The Big Green has 13 goal scorers this year, yet no player has more than six goals. This unity amidst the chaos of the pandemic is the work of head coach Liz Keady Norton, who was hired in May.

Keady Norton is no stranger to winning, especially within the ECAC and Ivy League. As a player at Princeton University, she was an integral part of a team that posted winning records all four years. As an assistant coach at Harvard University, she was a part of a team that defeated six ranked opponents during the 2015-2016 season, and in her four-year tenure as an assistant and associate head coach at Boston University, her teams went 8-1-1 against ECAC opponents. The Dartmouth sat down with Keady Norton to discuss how she has been able to produce results in a tumultuous first year and what her hopes are in building upon the success for the rest of the season and into the future.

The women’s hockey team could finish at or above .500 for the first time in five seasons — to what do you attribute this success?

LKN: Well, something we're pretty excited about is the kids’ work ethic in a year where COVID-19 is still a thing. We’ve been willing to adapt and roll with what comes our way. Some things are being done differently, like having forwards play defense and having practices with more or less players, but the kids are all in, and they are committed to making a change for the program to get us going on a better trajectory.

When you were hired in the spring, you highlighted the importance of consistency for a team’s morale and skill-building. In light of that, how have you been able to maintain unity amid uncertainty due to COVID-19?

It’s still something I say that we’re working on every day. What we control as coaches is the energy and our commitment level for these kids. Hopefully, we’re creating a challenging but positive atmosphere on the ice. Putting the kids in situations where they can be successful or learn from it is really important to me.

You have described yourself as a “people-over-play coach.” To what extent do you feel like you have been able to build relationships with the players, and what impact has that had on team culture?

I hope that it’s had a positive impact because that’s just who I am as a person. The better I get to know these kids, the more helpful I can be to them as a coach, a mentor and as someone who’s making decisions as to where they'll be most successful. It’s helped us so far, but I’ve been really fortunate to have a really good group of kids that are high character, hardworking and were very welcoming right from the get-go. They’ve made my transition one of the easier ones.

What adjustments have you had to make in your first year at Dartmouth compared to the other coaching positions you have held?

There have been a lot of adjustments for myself as a new head coach, like learning what we have within the program. There’s a lot of talent in that locker room, but as you get to know players more, you’re better able to put them in better positions for them to be successful within our team.

Over the course of the season, the program has seen some stars emerge like Herrington, who was just named ECAC player of the month. Were you anticipating the impact she would make this season? 

I was excited about [Herrington] right from the beginning. Her experience at Northeastern was a good jumpstart for her here. I'm excited about all the success she has had so far and more excited for what the future holds for her. She’s a high-energy, really positive, hard-working kid who came in and was willing to do whatever we needed in whatever role. I feel like our locker room is really fortunate to have her on and off the ice. 

Moving forward, what are some goals you have for the rest of the season and beyond?

I want to keep winning and make the playoffs. Looking at our schedule, we can hopefully make a little run for it, but at the very least set up the new standard that Dartmouth is a team that wants to compete within the ECAC. Beyond that, hopefully, in the very near future, we can be a top 10 team and contend for national championships like Dartmouth used to.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.