On a 13-game winning streak, the University of Chicago men’s soccer team is currently ranked number one in the NCAA Division III. The latest win in the Maroons’ so-far undefeated season came Friday, Oct. 14 in a home game against Carnegie Mellon University (4-0).
The Maroons have been fairly successful for the past seven seasons: They’ve had seven consecutive winning seasons, won five conference championships and made NCAA tournament appearances every year.
This season, the Maroons have so far scored 31 goals and are the fourth team in the program’s 75-year history to maintain a winning streak of more than 10 games. Much of this season’s success is owed to the team’s new head coach, Julianne Sitch, who is also the first female head coach in the program’s history.
“This team came in extremely prepared for the preseason,” said Sitch. “They held themselves to a high standard coming in. Everyone has been very inclusive with each other. They are student-athletes that want to achieve well in the classroom and that really translates on the field as well.”
Junior forward Ryan Yetishefsky is leading the team’s offensive pack with nine goals (five of which were game-winners) and 18 points. Sophomore midfielder Lyndon Hu is another offensive asset, having registered the most assists on this team so far with seven. Defensively, junior goalkeeper Will Boyes has been a brick wall for the Maroons since this season started on September 1, with 28 saves and six goals across all 13 games.
“They are very proud and excited about the culture that they are continuing to grow upon and continue to improve,” Sitch said. “We still want to get better every day. And
I think that’s the really cool thing about this team is they’re happy, yet we’re going after more. And we want to continue to improve each time we step on the field.”
Sitch, who accepted the head coaching job this past April, had an 11-year professional career as a defender for teams like the Chicago Red Stars and NJ/NY Gothman FC (formerly the Sky Blue FC) in Harrison, NJ. In 2015, the Oswego, Ill. native made her coaching debut with the Maroons’ women’s team as an assistant. After two seasons, she took another assistant coaching position with the University of Illinois-Chicago women’s team, then returned to her former team, the Red Stars, as an assistant coach for the past two seasons. Sitch is also the second female head soccer coach for a men’s team in the University Athletic Association alongside New York University’s Kim Wyant.
“I think it’s really unique and special that the UAA has two female coaches,” Sitch said. “I grew up watching a lot of men’s soccer because women’s soccer was not available at the pro level at the time. The 1999 Women’s World Cup team really took off and that gave me an opportunity to see women in a role that I really want to be in. So, now I think it’s phenomenal that women are taking new roles not just in sports, but all across the board. Because for young girls, if they don’t see it, they don’t dream it.”
The men’s soccer program has cycled through 12 head coaches since its founding in 1947. The previous head coach was Pat Flinn, who left the Maroons after two years to join the Drake University men’s soccer team this past January.
In the coming weeks, the Maroons will face conference foes such as Washington University in St. Louis and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. There are four games left in their regular season.
"Every team brings their best when they play us,” said Sitch. “Any team is beatable on any given day, so you need to bring your best. We stayed true to who we are and the things that we continue to improve upon. And that’s what we bring every day.”
Sitch added that this year’s team is feeling great about where they are now, and hope to bring home some hardware (i.e. championship trophies).
“We all have high standards and want to accomplish things that have happened in the past and continue to be a successful team in the UAA. I give a huge tribute to the people before us and give a tribute to the team today,” said Sitch.
The number one nationally ranked Maroons’ next game is this Sunday, Oct. 16 against Case Western Reserve University. The game begins at 11 a.m. at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field, East 55th Street.