The University of Chicago men’s soccer team had come incredibly close to winning their first championship on many occasions in recent years, but this time around was different as they finished off an undefeated season last weekend, and they made some history in the process.
The Maroons capped off a 22-0-1 season with their 2-0 victory over Williams College last weekend, handing the program its first ever Division III national championship.
Several things made the accomplishment even sweeter. The team had reached the Final Four in three of the last four seasons, including in 2021, but they were finally able to get over the hump this season.
“So many hours of working on the game I love, and it’s so great to be rewarded by the trophy and winning the national championship and putting together a perfect season,” goalkeeper Will Boyes says.
What could be more remarkable than that? Head coach Julianne Sitch became the first woman to ever lead an NCAA men’s soccer team to a national title, and did so in her first year as the team’s leader.
“It was very surreal. Just an incredible moment,” she said.
Sitch is plenty familiar with the local soccer scene in Chicago. She grew up in Oswego, played collegiate soccer at DePaul, then played professionally before beginning a coaching career that included a stint as an assistant coach with the Chicago Red Stars.
Now, she has a national championship on her resume, and she is proud of her status as a pioneer.
“Young girls have messaged me (to say) ‘thank you. You’re an inspiration, paving the way, allowing me to dream in something,’” she said. “When I sit and think about those moments, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Sitch says there was never any awkwardness with the team, saying that players made her feel welcome from the moment she stepped on campus.
“I know for a lot of them it was the first time they had been coached by a woman,” she said. “I know it was the first time my assistant had to work with a woman on staff, and they have done nothing but embrace me from day one.”
Players returned the compliments, praising her coaching style and her competitiveness, which they credited with buoying them through the ups and downs of the season.
“She’s definitely part of the brotherhood,” Will Boyes said.