Whether in the classroom or on the field for the University of Maryland field hockey team, Carla Tagliente ’01 was as fierce a competitor as anyone. Now, she’s on the sidelines, sharing her experiences and ushering in the next generation of student-athletes.
As the head coach of the Princeton field hockey team, Tagliente has helped transform the program into a powerhouse, leading the school to its first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, amassing four tournament appearances (2016-2019) and reaching the Final Four three times (2016, 2018 and 2019).
With a coaching resume spanning a decade, Tagliente has followed a career path defined by her love for the game. It’s a feeling she can’t shake, she says. The sport has played a major role in a lot of important decisions throughout her life, including her decision to attend the University of Maryland.
“I recognized I was coming from a small town in New York and was excited about the opportunity to go to Maryland, which I chose, in part, because of the hockey field hockey program,” says Tagliente. “I appreciated the diversity of majors, loved the D.C. Metro area and the access to so many opportunities there.”
Upon arrival to the UMD campus, Tagliente began as an engineering major. But not long after, she switched to the Robert H. Smith School of Business, where she enrolled to pursue a double major in finance and marketing.
While completing her coursework, Tagliente also was called up to the U.S. Women’s National Team, traveling the world during the collegiate off-season. Balancing those academic and athletic commitments was a difficult task, Tagliente says, sometimes requiring her to plan out her schedules three semesters in advance. But the experience opened doors to other opportunities, she says, including serving as the December 2001 commencement speaker.
“Looking back, I think I have a better appreciation for that period. I was just living in the moment and it was all very exciting,” says Tagliente. “Now as a coach and coaching players the same age as I was, it's just nice to see them getting those similar opportunities and being able to experience everything that is in front of them.”
Post-graduation, Tagliente surveyed her career options and contemplated going to graduate school. Ultimately, she found she couldn’t resist any opportunity to stay involved in field hockey, taking on coaching positions at universities across the country before arriving at Princeton in 2016.
Despite her years of experience, she was apprehensive about taking on her first head coaching position, at UMass. She decided to take the plunge and is grateful now that she did. She credits her mentors for helping her develop her own style.
“There’s really not a singular recipe for coaching. I think you need to understand your strengths and surround yourself with people that compensate for your weaknesses,” says Tagliente. “As you get older and move up, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to learn, and you have to be mindful when those opportunities present themselves.”
These days, Tagliente is keen to get back on the sidelines after losing the 2020 season to the pandemic, and is hoping to make up for lost time.
“It’s been such a strange year for everyone and I’m just looking forward to bringing us all back together to compete,” says Tagliente. “Now it’s about turning the page and never looking back.”
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.