While most members of the women’s hockey team were stepping into uncharted waters entering the Nittany Lions’ inaugural Division I season in October, assistant Gina Kearns was in familiar territory.
Kearns is no stranger to starting up hockey programs as she is a former Boston University standout forward. Kearns was a part of the Terriers inaugural Division I season in 2005 and became the team’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals and 50 assists.
After graduating in 2009, Kearns stayed within the sport and hopped on as a volunteer at Neumann, a Division III university right outside of Philadelphia. Kearns spent two seasons there before Josh Brandwene offered her an assistant position in June 2011, less than a month after he was named the head coach.
“It just kind of fell into my lap,” Kearns said. “The pieces just kind of fell together where I knew [assistant coach] Casey [McCullion] and Casey had a former relationship with Josh coaching prep school and it kind of connected and [I] came for an interview and was hired pretty soon after that.”
Brandwene said he offered Kearns the job because she is the perfect fit for Penn State and she has everything the program needs in an assistant coach.
Kearns said the biggest reason why she thinks she got the job was her experiences with a young program at Boston.
“It’s a little different as a coach, but I kind of know what they’re going through in the locker room,” Kearns said. “I know how I felt and my teammates felt [in] the weeks leading up to finals and break and just all the stress that comes with that.”
The Norwood, Pa. native said she can relate to her experiences as a player when she plans team activities and keeps the best interest of the student-athletes at heart.
Brandwene said he values Kearns’ prospective greatly and he trusts her in every way with the responsibilities that she has.
“She’s a fabulous teacher of the game. It’s innate for her,” Brandwene said. “She’s a natural as a coach, so she does a tremendous job with the forwards. She does a tremendous job as a mentor with the whole team and her contributions really can’t truly be measured because they’re just fabulous in every way.”
Kearns said she is a product of her own environment because she had two female assistant coaches that were “a ton of fun to be around,” but also were knowledgeable about the game.
Forward Jill Holdcroft said Kearns has good relationships with the players and they like to interact with her and have fun.
“It makes us feel very comfortable,” Holdcroft said. “We like to have fun with what we’re doing cause we’re playing hockey and we all enjoy it.”