The celebration of the most dramatic triumph in Claire Pollard's relentlessly successful 16 years as Northwestern women's tennis coach included the obligatory dousing with the water bucket.
The difference this time was the coach wasn't the only member of her family to get doused two weeks ago after the Wildcats won their 15th Big Ten tournament title in Pollard's tenure with an improbable rally to beat top-seeded Michigan 4-3.
Daughter Madeline was in Pollard's arms when the cold liquid hit, sending the 9-year-old girl into shrieks of joy.
It left the coach with the warm feeling any mom would have over sharing such a moment with her child.
"You have to make tough choices between work and home a little bit," Pollard said. "There are times when you have to put your program ahead of your kids and times when you have to put your kids ahead of your program, and you feel guilty about both. Yet the rewards are so fantastic."
It is why, with Mother's Day coming up Sunday, there can be no better time to acknowledge the success of three Northwestern coaching moms whose teams all are involved in postseason play in Evanston the next few days.
Pollard, 47, mother of Madeline, 7-year old Finn and 5-year-old Gemma, has a team that earned home-court advantage in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament for the 15h straight year. The Wildcats, seeded 15 nationally, meet Miami (Ohio) on Friday.
Softball coach Kate Drohan, 40, will be celebrating her first Mother's Day, having given birth to a daughter, Ellis, last October. Drohan hopes she will have another reason to rejoice beause a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament beginning Thursday night against Michigan State will assure the Wildcats of a place in the NCAA tournament field announce Sunday.
Lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, 40, mother of Harlee, 7, and Lew, 2, will have a team playing on Mother's Day for the fifth time since Harlee's birth. The seven-time NCAA champion Wildcats, with a 4-0 Mother's Day record under Amonte Hiller, meet either Louisville or Ohio State on Sunday.
"One of the benefits of having this job is being able to have your kids around," Amonte Hiller said.
You can find Ellis in an infant carrier on mom's chest as she does a clinic, Harlee on the team bench before mom's team takes the field, Madeline getting soaked by one of mom's players, Veronica Corning.
"My kids are fairly involved with the program, and the girls (players) are unbelievable with the kids," Pollard said.
When Ellis went on her first road trip, Drohan's players were fighting over who could hold her. Harlee is old enough to have her favorites among the lacrosse players, so the rest are vying for Lew's affections.
The three coaches agree motherhood has changed the way they handle players but not the demands they put on their athletes.
"I've learned a little bit more patience," Drohan said. "I feel I am just as demanding but I have a little more understanding of what the big perspective is."
Pollard said she always treated her players the way she wanted to be treated.
"Now I'm a little more mindful that I treat the players how I want my daughters and son to be treated," she said.
To Amonte Hiller, who always considered patience among her strong suits as a coach, having kids reinforced its value.
"When you're dealing with little kids too, you realize they make mistakes, they get upset, and it's the same way with big kids," she said. "You have to be patient, work through it and give them the confidence to be successful."
And remember that losing can be hard on the little, the big and the adults.
"Harlee is at the age where she is really starting to get into it, which is good and bad," Amonte Hiller said. "Last week we had a very crying Harlee after the game."
She wasn't the only member of Amonte Hiller's family who felt that way. Mom's voice had cracked while talking about her team's 9-8 loss to Florida in a conference tournament title game it had led by five goals.
At least Harlee wasn't second-guessing the coach.
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