University of Chicago soccer coach Julianne Sitch has done what no one has done in NCAA history - she became the first woman to lead a men's soccer team to a national title.
The first-year coach led the Maroons to a 2-0 win over Williams College in the the NCAA Division III men's soccer national championship Saturday, capping the UChicago's undefeated 22-0-1 season with the program's first ever title.
"The credit goes to the team - I mean, these guys have never had a female coach before, and they embraced me as one of their own. And for me, that will forever be a grateful moment," Sitch said after the victory, according to the university.
She continued: "Just to watch them play, I'm extremely proud. They wear their heart on their sleeve. … The energy, the support, the togetherness, this is a team. We had a heck of a lot of fun this year, and this is a really great way to end our season."
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UChicago junior Robbie Pino scored a goal in the 66th minute to put the Maroons up 1-0. Junior Ryan Yetishefsky sealed the win with another goal in the 89th minute to put them up 2-0 with seconds remaining.
The team poured blue Powerade on Sitch after the final whistle and celebrated with UChicago alumni. The Maroons have reached the NCAA Division III semifinals four times in program history, but never made it past the Final Four - until now.
"After (Yetishefskty) scored that goal, we all ran over to that sideline, and it was all the alumni that we played with, and we watched play in the past," senior Griffin Wada said. "They all celebrated with us - that's a special moment, because we wouldn't be here without those guys."
Sitch, an Oswego, Illinois native, was named Illinois Gatorade Women's High School Soccer Player of the Year in 2002, according to her UChicago bio. She played collegiate soccer at DePaul from 2002-05, where she set school records in career points (90), goals (32) and assists (26).
She went on to play pro soccer in Australia, Sweden and the United States, where she played on the U-21 national team that won the Nordic Cup in 2004.
The 39-year-old served as an assistant coach for the UChicago women's soccer team from 2015 to 2017. She spent a season as an assistant coach at UIC in 2018, before returning to the NWSL Chicago Red Stars as a first team assistant in 2020.
She was named the UChiacgo men's coach in April.
"We talked about (our team) just having this hunger from where they've been in the past and being here, and this year, from the beginning, just felt different," Stitch reflected. "The way that they showed up, their mentality, they came in extremely fit, and they've held the standards extremely high all of season, and I think every single day and every single game, we've just continued to become more and more of a team. And today, that showed on the field, just the grit, the resiliency, and everyone playing for each other."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UChicago's Julianne Sitch first woman to coach men's soccer to title