Winnetka, Sports

Assistant coach to take reins of prestigious New Trier field hockey program

Brittany Romano replaces retiring legend Stephanie Nykaza

New Trier field hockey isn’t broke, so why fix it?

New Trier has looked within for its new head coach, naming Brittany Romano, a Trevians field hockey alumna, to replace legendary coach Stephanie Nykaza — also a Trevians field hockey alumna.

Romano has served on Nykaza’s staff for the past 10 seasons and takes over a program that has won 16 state championships, including one while Romano was an NTHS player (2007) and four (2018-’22) while she was a varsity coach.

“I am extremely grateful to New Trier, the athletics department and the administration,” Romano said. “They have been so supportive of me since I was a student at New Trier. … It’s amazing. There is no other place I would want to coach. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

Romano, a goalie, began playing field hockey at Wilmette Junior High, with a program that still exists today. She played at a Trevian under Nykaza until her graduation in 2009 and then went on to play collegiate field hockey at Denison University.

At Denison, Romano was an All-Conference standout and was the league’s defensive player of the year as a junior. More accolades came her way senior year, and Romano still holds the school’s record for most career saves and shutouts.

Coaches (left to right) Saleema Rogers, Stephanie Nykaza and Brittany Romano at a retirement celebration for Nykaza in the fall.

By the time she graduated college, Romano had already been coaching youth field hockey players for four years. Under Nykaza, she fell in love with the job.

As she moved up the ranks, her path became more and more clear.

“During those years, I just knew,” Romano said. “I knew this was my path and this was the career wanted to pursue. … Overall I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than getting to coach young athletes and young women.”

Nykaza helmed the Trevians for 35 years, finishing a storied career with a runnerup finish in the state tournament this fall. Under Nykaza, the Trevians won 14 state championships.

In an interview with The Record in October, Nykaza said that a talented coaching staff, led by Romano, was one of the reasons she was comfortable retiring.

Romano said it will be difficult not to have Nykaza by her side on the sidelines, but she also knows her mentor won’t be far away.

“It’s like that feeling of going off to college and you know you’re ready to be on your own but at the same time you’re like, ‘Can I do this without them?'” Romano said. “… We’ve created a very close partnership throughout these last 10 years, so it will be difficult not to have that voice on the sidelines with me; even though, I think she will call after ever game and will probably go to a lot of games.

“It will be different, but as far as the culture of this program, everything that (Nykaza) has built I believe in. A lot of the traditions, expectations and how we run things will stay the same. So I think for the girls the transition is going to be really smooth.”

Romano is in her second year teaching at New Trier High School. She is on the kinetic wellness staff and teachers strength and conditioning and yoga and self defense as well.

Trevians field hockey has a relatively unique offseason challenge following the unpleasant end to its 2023 season. After a remarkable regular season, the Trevians were upset in the state championship, 1-0, by Glenbrook (co-op).

Romano said the program’s rising seniors “can’t get over it.” And while Romano and her staff must will be challenged to channel that energy in a positive direction, the passion within the program is always there, she said. And it’s a big reason she, like Nykaza, bleeds blue and green.

“I think we have such great kids,” Romano said. “They come in and want to work so hard. They are extremely dedicated to our sport. … We understand that to be successful we have to work hard — long practices, lots of conditioning — and they do it. It’s not something we have to convince them to do. It’s very easy to coach these girls.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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