After a three-month search, Simpson College announced the hiring of Jill Serafino as the new head women’s soccer coach last Thursday after going through a series of applicants since Ryan Sander’s resignation in November.
A Belchertown, Mass. native and lifelong east-coaster, Serafino comes from Division III Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. where she served as assistant coach for three years. She assisted Springfield to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a 39-14-10 record.
Serafino also boasts coaching experience at the Division I and II levels, directing a 13-win reversal in five seasons at Division II American International College, including one NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I thought Jill brought a lot of things to the table having experience at the Division I, II and III levels,” athletic director Brian Niemuth said. “She’s very organized, is very mature, brings a lot of energy and has a great concept of the game and how it is to be played.”
For Serafino, a head-coaching role is a first, but a position she is ready to embrace at Simpson. Serafino said it wasn’t all about the soccer and the coaching, but Simpson as a whole.
“I liked the size of Simpson, the majors they offered and knew there was great potential for growth here, definitely something I was up for,” Serafino said.
Having success at Springfield and being in her home state of Massachusetts, she wanted to be able to pursue a school that mirrored Springfield and would satisfy her as a coach.
“The type of student-athlete that attends Simpson would be similar to Springfield with liberal arts options with a wide array of majors and sports-related degrees,” Serafino said. “I loved Springfield College and I knew if I was going elsewhere it would have to be a similar school.”
Serafino, who has a sister who lives in Iowa, wanted to make a well-rounded decision before jumping into the role as the fifth head women’s soccer coach at Simpson.
The Massachusetts native also has three degrees, which she brought into her position as a professor in the school of business administration at American International College.
Serafino would like to apply this professorial approach to her coaching on the field at Simpson.
“My favorite aspect of coaching is definitely the teaching,” Serafino said. “I love teaching the game and trying to find new ways to get the point across. Every player is a different type of learner, so I try to really touch on that.”
This style is a needed change from that they received under Sander, who was often distant from being the teacher in a coaching role, only generating a 2-16-1 record last season.
That was a team that lacked discipline and organization at times, searching for some sign of mental toughness, something the women’s soccer team is hungry for in their new coach.
“Looking back on last year, I think we all agree that some discipline needs to be brought from our coach,” sophomore defender Lauren Stillman said. “We also need leadership and organization, and those are three things that we’d like to, and probably will see, from Jill.”
While Serafino has spoken to players Mackenzie Stump, Stillman and Kate Morford, she will not officially make the transition to Iowa until early March.
But, from her limited exposure to the team and the state of the women’s soccer program, Serafino already has a grasp on what the team needs and lacked last season.
“I want the team to find team chemistry and togetherness,” Serafino said. “I also want to find a way to work towards injury prevention, working with the athletic training program to implement a lot to help with injury prevention.”
With only half the typical year to do recruiting before arriving in Iowa, the original plan was for the captains to take over recruiting in Iowa, going off a list left by Sander.
“I think we are taking over the recruiting around here because we’ve seen them and have had them on campus,” sophomore midfielder Katie Eichelberger said.
While the recruiting process will be a crash course for Serafino as she makes a name for herself in Iowa and the Midwest, Niemuth is confident she will be able to adjust her system and play on the field to whatever personnel is before her.
“One of the things I was impressed with is that I think she’ll match the talent she has with how she plays,” Niemuth said. “I know she will have a good match of taking the talent of our kids and putting it into a system that they can play and be successful in.”
“I am just ready to have my own program and I feel like at Simpson I’ll be able to reach my goals,” Serafino said.