Women’s Soccer hire Wake Forest assistant as new head coach

The University of Rhode Island women’s soccer team filled their head coaching void when they acquired the services of longtime Wake Forest assistant Megan Jessee last week.

After losing head coach Michael Needham to an assistant coaching job at Ohio State University, the Rams were in need of someone new at the helm. Following the Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn’s announcement on Monday April 3, some fans may have been curious about the background of their new coach.

Jessee served as an assistant coach to head coach Tony Da Luz for nine straight seasons, following a one-year graduate assistant coaching stint at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Jessee believes that she learned a lot of valuable lessons from Da Luz, her fellow assistant coaches and players at Wake Forest in preparation for her first head coaching position.

“The importance of developing players and having patience, also developing leadership on the team,” Jesse said about her plans for URI soccer. “We are going to play, pass the ball around and bring it out of the back. We are going to have a very technical game so we are not going to play super direct. We are going to rely a lot on set pieces, offensively and defensively, to be really sharp there. I want to see a very technical and tactical game.”

During her playing career, Jessee was a stand out goalkeeper as a four-year letter winner at the University of Connecticut (2002-06). During her time at Wake Forest, one of her primary roles as an assistant coach was to help train goalkeepers on their roster. Jessee helped turn goalkeeping into one of the biggest strengths of the Demon Deacons during her nine-year tenure. In 2009, she coached the goalkeepers up to a program record 15 shutouts. Two seasons later, she helped the goalkeepers earn the second highest total in school history with 14.

Jessee helped develop Demon Deacons’ star goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe into one of the best in the nation, as she was named to the NSCAA’s All-America Second Team as a sophomore in 2011. This was the first time in the program’s history that a goalkeeper earned All-American recognition. In Jessee’s nine years at Wake Forest she helped coach the team to a total of 86 shutouts.

Jessee’s experience as a goalkeeper and coach comes at a great time, since four-year goalkeeper and one of last year’s captains Katie Nickles is graduating from URI in May. Current redshirt freshman Haley Brennan is the only current returning goalkeeper on the roster, along with incoming freshmen keepers Julia Freeman of North Haven, Connecticut and Montana Ligman of Miami, Florida

Jessee’s first training session with her new team was this week, as she is just getting acclimated to her new roster. She believes that the goalkeeper position is currently up for the taking, and is looking for one of the three on the roster for next fall to impress during preseason this summer.

“My first training session is tomorrow (Wednesday), but honestly that position is up for grabs,” Jessee said.”We have two freshman coming in and a sophomore on the roster so preseason will probably determine that. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone with a lot of experience right now. So that is one of those question marks that will be answered sometime between now and the first game.”

Coming back to New England where her roots in college soccer began is a perfect situation for the UConn alumni as she embarks on her first head coaching job. Jessee admits that the location of Rhode Island played into her decision of choosing URI as the place to make the next leap in her career..

“It was a great opportunity to come back up to an area that I already know, and that I already have a lot of connections in,” Jessee said. “The resources are great here and it is just a well-supported program from faculty and staff.”

Jessee has been involved in soccer since her youngest days back in California, before moving to another soccer obsessed community in Pennsylvania at the age of 12.

Following an underwhelming 6-8-5 regular season last year, before losing to St. Joseph’s University 1-0 in a double-overtime thriller in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament quarterfinals, Jessee is setting her expectations high for her new team going into next season.

“The preseason, I mean it is all about bringing the team together from an organizational standpoint,” Jessee said. “Ultimately for the fall I want us to compete for an A-10 Championship, that is the goal for this year and every year. That is going to be our primary focus and ultimately when we win an A-10 Championship we will start worrying about the NCAA tournament.”