Julianne Sitch made history on Saturday as she became the first woman to coach a men’s soccer team to a national championship. Sitch led the University of Chicago to an undefeated record, the top seed in the NCAA Division III Final Four, and the program’s first ever national title.
The Maroons had advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals four times before, but they never made it past the the Final Four. Sitch took over the program in April, making her one of only two women coaching a Division III men’s soccer team, and helped the Maroons get over that hump.
The Maroons finished with a 21-0-1 record during her first season at the helm. They won the championship game 2-0 against Williams College on Saturday. Sitch got a Powerade shower and a lot of recognition after the game, but she gave her players all the credit.
“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,” Sitch said after the game. “And for me, that will forever be a grateful moment.”
Sitch said she has coached young boys and girls throughout her career, and she has learned that at the end of the day they are all just athletes and gender is not too important. Her players feel the same way about her. Team captain Griffin Wada told CBS News that it was never “a huge, pressing thing that she was a woman.”
“She’s just a calm presence,” Wada said of Sitch.
Sitch might have been the first female coach to earn a national title with a men’s team, but she doesn’t want to be the last.
“It gives young girls something to aspire,” Sitch told CBS News. “If they can see it, they can dream it, they can believe it, and then aspire to be that.”