The day after Stevenson University lacrosse coach Kathy Railey won her 200th career game against Geneseo March 17 was not a special one; she went right back to work.
Railey, who has led the Mustangs' women's lacrosse team for the past 15 seasons, is not one to dwell too much on her successes. The winningest coach in program history doesn't flaunt the fact that she helped the team reach its first NCAA Tournament, win a school-record 16 games and claim a Middle Athletic Conference championship for the first time.
But when the Mustang players presented Railey with the golden horseshoe -- an honor usually reserved for players who had a particularly good game -- after the 15-12 win against Geneseo, the moment did hit her.
"It took me by surprise," Railey said. "[The golden horseshoe] is meant for someone who did the best that day. For years, I've always been curious about who they give it to every game, but I had never gotten it. I'm not gonna lie, I did tear up a little bit."
Stevenson has won three games since the victory against Geneseo, and Railey now has 203 wins to her name as a women's lacrosse coach at the Division III level. She went 64-39 at Eastern Connecticut State from 2000-2005, and she's 139-96 at Stevenson entering the Mustangs' game against Alvernia April 3.
Stevenson women's lacrosse has experienced a lot of firsts since Railey took over the program in 2006. The team's first conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2014, but before that, the team was regionally ranked for the first time in 2008 and nationally ranked for the first time in 2010.
Those accomplishments do mean something to Railey, but she views her players' triumphs as the true signs of her success as a coach.
Railey has coached 23 All-Region selections, 10 of which were first-team honorees. There have been 45 all-conference selections, 24 first-team selections and three Players of the Year. And 21 of Railey's players were Academic Honor selections.
So when the chance came for the Stevenson players to do something for the coach who cares deeply about their development as players and people, they wanted to take it.
"She was so excited to see how much we cared about it," said junior midfielder Carly Bowes, who scored seven goals in Stevenson's win against Geneseo. "As a coach, she's always our No.1 fan … so I think she was just excited to see how happy it made everyone for her to have that awesome accomplishment."
Prior to the game against Geneseo, Railey was not aware how close she was to achieving the milestone. She had to be told just hours before the game against the Knights that a win would be the 200th of her career at Stevenson.
"I said, 'Oh, I didn't know that was today," she said.
Her players, however, were very much aware of that fact. There hadn't been any official planning for it, but they knew going into the season that Railey was close.
"It wasn't something we consistently harped on," Bowes said. "It was something we knew was potentially coming and that she would eventually get it with us working to the best of our ability."
Both of the victories leading up to the game against the Knights in Englewood, Fla., had been close. After dropping games against Salisbury and Gettysburg, Stevenson won back-to-back games against Randolph-Macon and Montclair State by a combined five goals.
But when the Mustangs finally took the field against the Knights in Englewood, there wasn't a lot of talk about a win would mean for Railey. Most of the players' attention was on getting above .500 against a team that had handedly won its first three games.
"It wasn't that I completely forgot about it, but I was so focused … once we got into the game," Bowes said. "So there wasn't really any added pressure. We just played like it was any other game."
Like her players, Railey was not focused on adding another accomplishment to her list. Still, there was some extra motivation to winning that particular game. Geneseo had knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round five years ago.
"It was an avenging game," Railey said. "That was my focus. I wanted to get them back. And for this team to [win] against this team on that particular game, I couldn't have scripted it better myself."
Freshman Tea Ferrara scored a goal with less than two minutes left in the second half that essentially ended the game, and as the final buzzer sounded, the significance of the win rushed back into the minds of Bowes, Railey and the rest of the team.
Then came the celebrations, which started by dumping the water cooler on Railey. And when the team captains came together to decide who would get the golden horseshoe, Railey was the easy choice.
Bowes said Railey was "completely captivated" when she got the award.
"We knew instantly that we wanted to give it to her," she said. "It was such a big accomplishment for her. The golden horseshoe symbolizes that we recognized how outstanding she was, and we really appreciate it."
Railey loves to win, and she has done plenty of that at Stevenson. It has earned her conference championships, tournament appearances and a selection in the US Lacrosse/Greater Baltimore Chapter Hall of Fame.
But while those things do make her proud, the daily tasks of being a head coach, and helping her student-athletes succeed, is what she truly enjoys.
"All that is less important to me than the experiences I have with these young women," Railey said. "I will trade my 200 wins for a trip to the NCAA Tournament in a heartbeat. I would much rather be in a postgame huddle after a huge win any day of the week."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stevenson Athletics