High school sports

Mustang dynamo: Coolen proves 'special' athletes can come in smaller packages

The 5-foot 3-inch Mount View athlete has been force in basketball, soccer, softball
By Mark Haskell | Jan 09, 2020
Photo by: Zack Miller Mount View's Hannah Coolen, middle, drives to the hoop against Belfast's Kayci Faulkingham, left, and Halle Tripp on Jan. 7 in high school girls basketball.

Thorndike — In the third quarter of the team’s home game against Oceanside of Rockland on Saturday, Dec. 30, the Mount View girls basketball team forced a turnover as the ball bounded deep into the backcourt.

In a game the overall young and growing Mustangs trailed by 27 points, there was not much urgency from either squad in tracking down that loose ball in the lopsided afternoon affair.

That is, of course, other than Mount View sophomore Hannah Coolen.

Coolen sprung into action — seemingly shot out of a cannon — as the 5-foot 3-inch guard barreled uncontested toward the ball. She dove onto the court near the endline and nearly saved the possession, but the ball went out of bounds as she slid hard into the gymnasium’s cement wall.

She summed the play up simply: “I don’t want to give up.”

While Coolen is beginning to make a name for herself in the varsity ranks for the Mustangs, her name has been well-known through the youth athletic realm in Waldo County for several years.

The daughter of Sharon and Roger Coolen of Unity, the 16-year-old has played basketball, softball and either baseball or softball since she was young.

Early on, as a fourth-grade basketball player, she caught the eye of B.U.M. League coach Monica Furrow.

“She was tenacious, feisty and more skilled than most of her peers,” she said of Coolen. “I looked at [my husband and co-coach Wally] and said, ‘I’m going to coach this girl.’ She’s going to play on our boys [all-star] team.”

Coolen already had some experience playing alongside boys as the B.U.M. League and the area’s youth soccer league is coed, so the thought of playing against boys was not only undaunting, but a welcome challenge.

And, socially, little for Coolen changed as she was “always friends with the guys more.”

Coolen thrived on the courts — and on the soccer pitch for that matter — and played on the B.U.M. League’s all-star teams as she continued to grow as a player through eighth grade. She also represented her home town of Unity in Waldo County Little League — a sport dominated by boys — where she made the county’s all-star baseball team in 2016.

“She’s just special,” said Furrow. “I played Little League growing up and thought it better prepared me to play softball to dominate more. So I always encourage all girls to play Little League if they can.”

Coolen also tried football for a year in sixth grade “just to try it out.” She played linebacker and offensive guard, but made her way back to the soccer pitch.

Mount View varsity soccer coach David Page, also a science teacher at Mount View Middle School, said he was unsure at the time if she would stick with football or soccer going forward, but “she kindly reassured me [during a class] that she was going to stick with soccer.”

Page called Coolen, who was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team all-conference this season, quite simply, “The total package.”

“Hannah's versatility is what makes her so important to us,” he said. “She played everywhere from center defense to striker at various times this season. She gets a lot of deserved recognition for her offensive game but she's a lock down defender as well. Whenever we received a scouting report recommending we double-team a certain player, we simply had Hannah mark her one-on-one. It's such an advantage to be able to stick with your scheme and allows everyone else to focus on their jobs. And she never complains about that role, she's so competitive and such a team player, she'll do whatever gives us the best opportunity to win.”

Coolen had 10 goals and four assists on the pitch as a sophomore.

While her athletic career began with T-ball at age five, basketball is “definitely” her passion of the three.

And, she said her playing competitively largely against boys has helped her grow immensely as a hoopster, and athlete overall.

“It definitely made my stronger to play with the boys,” said Coolen. “In basketball it helped me learn to get past taller players, because the boys are usually taller. [And] they were accepting, because I was always friends with all of them.”

And, the often-physical nature of the game in the paint does not deter Coolen. In fact, “the contact is fun.”

It is not uncommon for Coolen to bolt down the court and drive to the basket among much taller opponents and score, get fouled, and sink the free for a three-point play.

“It’s from playing with the boys,” she said. I’d take a lot of contact and they were always bigger and stronger. So I just pushed myself to get bigger and stronger just like them.”

Mustang varsity girls basketball coach Mark Cooper said Coolen has been “instrumental” to the program as a whole since joining the team last year. She has led the team in scoring every game this season, averaging 21.4 points and almost six rebounds.

“Her dedication, self-motivation and desire to improve on a daily basis is quite remarkable for someone who is only a sophomore,” he said. "Hannah leads by doing. Her teammates rely on her heavily, almost too much some times. Hannah works hard on helping her teammates improve and build their confidence.”

The young Mustang girls basketball team has experienced growing pains this season, with one win to its credit (a one-point overtime victory over Orono). Coolen is one of five sophomores on the team that also has three juniors and six freshmen — and no seniors.

“We’re going to be better in the future,” said Coolen, who is well on her way to a 1,000-point career. “It’s a process. We’re not losing any players [next year], so we’re just going to be building.”

Cooper said he feels Coolen’s “internal drive and desire to be the best” is what fuels her and “she is a mature, level-headed and quality individual.”

As a youngster, Coolen found her way on the diamond as a catcher. However, Mustang varsity softball coach Mark Bennett thought so much of her talents, he tabbed her as the team’s starting shortstop — as a freshman.

Last year, Coolen batted .231, with 22 runs scored and a .821 fielding percentage.

“I was mostly catcher and then this year I started playing shortstop,” she said. “I liked it. It was really fun. I had to do what my coach said. But I like playing shortstop.”

“Hannah is the type of player who goes all out every day, whether it is a practice or a game,” said Bennett. “That type of attitude is infectious to the team and her teammates and drives everyone to work harder.  As a player, she has demonstrated the type of instincts that are hard to teach. Starting at shortstop, as a freshman, she was really the leader of our defense.”

In the short term, Coolen’s personal sports goals are the same as most high school athletes: “Win a state championship.”

And, as is evident by her pedigree thus far, she will not give up to realize lofty aspirations for her teams or herself.

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