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Soccer’s Success Built on a Network of Support

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The Dartmouth men’s soccer team has won four Ivy League championships since 2002 and has a glittering 22-8-4 conference record over the past five years. No team in the Ivy League can match either of those numbers and the Big Green is hard at work trying to add to them under ninth-year Head Coach Jeff Cook.

soccer game

Forward/midfielder Craig Henderson ’09 (left) of Wellington, New Zealand, and defender Nick Pappas ’12 of Scottsdale, Ariz., battle the University of Connecticut in September. Coach Jeff Cook says that the men’s soccer program has benefitted from a team of alumni, players, and friends who help him find and recruit top student-athletes. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

The defending Ivy League champs, Dartmouth has been ranked as high as number 5 in the country this fall by College Soccer News, and were 10-5-1 overall and 4-2 in Ivy play following a November 7 win over Cornell. Heading into its final regular season game against Brown on November 15, the Big Green was tied for second place with the Bears, one point behind league leader Harvard.

“I really feel very confident that this team has the ability, the athleticism, and the cohesiveness to compete with any team in the country,” says Cook, who guided Dartmouth to the third round of the NCAA playoffs last year. “This team has a maturity that is unique. We have a lot of guys who have been down the road of playoff games and Ivy title games. I expect that to pay dividends.”

Cook has assembled an interesting mix of players from across the country (the preseason roster listed players from 12 states) and around the world (Bulgaria, New Zealand, Sweden, and Zimbabwe) who are determined to add to the Big Green’s legacy.

“If you look at the history of Dartmouth soccer, it’s that ability to build a program, rather than a single team. That’s what we try to emphasize,” explains Cook. “Bumps come here and there and we all have them, but the feeling that you are connected to something bigger has really helped fuel the theme of success building on success.”

The Big Green’s development from a consistent Ivy League contender to a national powerhouse program has indeed been a team effort, according to Cook, and not just by the players on the field. A “friends and family” team of people has made key contributions by recommending top student-athletes to Dartmouth, as well as commending Dartmouth to those student-athletes.

New Zealander Olympian Craig Henderson ’09 was brought to Dartmouth’s attention by former coach Bobby Clark, still a friend of the program and currently head coach at Notre Dame. Henderson grew up in the same Wellington neighborhood as fellow co-captain Daniel Keat ’10, another New Zealand Olympian who followed Henderson to Dartmouth. Luckymore Mkosana ’12, last year’s Ivy League rookie of the year, is the cousin of former star player Methembe Ndlovu ’97. Bryan Giudicelli ’11, Aaron Gaide ’11, Brendan Lane ’11, and Justin Ciambella ’13 were all discovered at Clark’s Notre Dame camp. Sean Donovan ’13, Lyman Missimer ’11, Kevin Dzierzawski ’13, Brad Jacobson ’13, Michael Donelan ’12, and Pumi Maqubela ’10 all attended Cook’s soccer camp at Dartmouth.

“As much as we are proactive in recruiting, many times it comes down to somebody who knows the program and thinks it would be a great fit,” says Cook. “I feel that is critical and it goes two ways. One, we have the recommendations for players coming into the program.

“But it’s also the reputation Dartmouth enjoys as a college first and foremost, and then as a soccer program, that enhances its attractiveness to the student-athlete,” he continues. “I think we are very advantaged by the fact that when anyone asks someone about Dartmouth, 99.9 percent of the time what they hear is exceedingly positive. That has been enormously helpful to us.”

 BY BRUCE WOOD

Last Updated: 1/12/10