Pat Nelson of Kingsford, whose generous gift launched the soccer program, passed away October 6. The widow of Charlie Nelson '36, she supported a variety of Tech initiatives, including an endowed scholarship, the new graduate student center, and the Peace Corps, LeaderShape, Outdoor Adventure, and EcoCar programs. "Pat was a great friend to the University, especially its students, and she left them a wonderful legacy," said President Glenn Mroz. "It's fair to say that without her, we would not have soccer."
Soccer—A Success From Day 1/Game 1
by Wes Frahm
On September 2, nearly fourteen hundred fans stood in unison at Sherman Field and clapped to the fight song as Michigan Tech celebrated a scoring play. No, the Huskies’football team hadn’t found the end zone. Not yet, anyway. They wouldn’t play at home for another two weeks.
No, the cheer was for the first goal in women’s soccer history—a right-footed boot from freshman Melanie Hoffman late in the first half.
The cheer didn’t just celebrate the goal. It celebrated the quick zero-to-success run for the soccer program.
A mere ten months before, the Michigan Tech athletic department offerings included thirteen varsity sports, none of which involved soccer. But the prospect of adding a fourteenth was at the top of the list for Tech Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret.
“I had developed a business plan for adding women’s soccer several years ago,” she said. “In September 2009, I was contacted by [Michigan Tech] President Glenn Mroz and Vice President Ellen Horsch to see if it would be feasible to put a team together for fall 2010.”
On October 8, 2009, the program was officially born, and Michigan Tech was added to the 2010 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule.
Of all the reasons for adding women’s soccer, increasing the female student population was paramount. “Adding soccer was a great fit within the conference. And soccer student-athletes are traditionally great students. Most of all, the addition of the program fit the goals of the University by bringing more females to campus,” said Sanregret.
Her first big task was to find a head coach. The search led to Michelle Jacob, who had spent the previous three years as head coach at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Jacob turned Marian around from a 4–12–1 record the year before she arrived to 11–7–1 in her third year. She posted a 32–24–1 mark during her three seasons.
Jacob was hired in late January and began leading the program February 8. Priority number one: “Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting,” said Jacob. “We had to get the word out that we had a brand-new soccer program. We knew that there were quality student-athletes out there waiting to find the right home.”
The days and weeks in the car traveling to games and tournaments paid off. She had signed fourteen student-athletes to play soccer at Michigan Tech by early August. Other members of Tech’s eventual roster were already students at Tech who tried out, including Hoffman, who tallied the historic goal.
Two weeks of practice included several scrimmages against other collegiate teams. When the Huskies officially took the field for the first time, they were ready. Except for maybe a few jitters, that is.
“We started a little slow with all the excitement and nerves, but the girls were able to calm down and focus and play our game,” said Jacob afterward.
Tech added a goal less than three minutes into the second half of that inaugural game against Concordia-St. Paul and went on to win. The crowd stayed through the final horn, then saluted the team with another rendition of the fight song.
“What an experience,” said Jacob. “I would like to thank President Mroz and the donors for their support and resources to allow us to have this unforgettable opportunity.”
Another great sports tradition has been born at Michigan Tech.