The Cornell Athletic Department announced on Feb. 13 that Gretchen Zigante will step into the position of interim head coach for the women’s soccer team until the end of next season. This announcement follows the resignation of former head coach Berhane Andeberhan on Jan. 5.
“We support Berhane’s resignation,” said Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel. “I think it’s best for everybody involved. The decision came after lengthy discussion at many levels of the administration about the women’s soccer program, and I think this is best for everybody involved.”
Andeberhan leaves the Red after six years at the helm, during which he compiled a 34-52-11 record overall, including a 7-31-4 mark in Ivy League play during that span.
“It wasn’t voluntary,” Andeberhan said. “I’m very happy and very proud of my work at Cornell.”
Noel said the decision to accept Andeberhan’s resignation came following an annual review of the team’s performance and in-depth consideration of many facets of the program, including its ability to compete within the Ivy League and the quality of experience it was providing for student-athletes.
Zigante will take over the reins after four seasons as an assistant coach under Andeberhan, and she hopes to develop the team into an Ivy League challenger.
“I think we’re going to continue on the same course we’ve been heading. We’re looking to improve, especially in the Ivy League in terms of results,” Zigante said. “The challenge that our students have as athletes and Ivy League students is a great one, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be competitive and get results.”
Noel is confident in Zigante’s abilities to help the Red improve on its ability to challenge in the Ancient Eight.
“[Zigante] has a very positive attitude and a soccer resume that is impressive,” Noel said. “Beyond her playing excellence, in our discussions with her, she has a very strong, confident handle on our program.”
The first notable achievement on Zigante’s resume is the 1986 NCAA national championship, which she won with the storied North Carolina program as its starting goalkeeper. She was a member of the U.S. national team from 1986-90, where she first worked with Andeberhan, who was a coach for the national team.
“I think it’s a natural transition,” Zigante said. “Berhane is an excellent coach and an excellent mentor, so I’ll look to implement what I’ve learned from him.”
After her time with the national team, Zigante moved on to Japan, where she played two years of professional soccer for Shiroki FC in Toyokawashi.
Zigante began her coaching career stateside at Cal State University at San Bernadino, a Division II heavyweight that reached a No. 4 ranking in the nation during the 1995 season and produced four national scholars and two All-Americans. After the ’95 season, Zigante was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year.
Zigante moved on to Division I soccer when she became an assistant coach at San Diego in 1998, a team she helped take to the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999, including a Sweet 16 berth in 1998. The Aztecs reached the top-10 in national polls that season, and won the first of two conference championships.
Zigante earned a bachelor of sciences degree in biological sciences at Idaho State in 1999, and also earned a United States Soccer Federation National “A” license the same year.
“[Zigante] has a clear path in mind for the current team and newcomers next fall,” Noel said. “We feel she’ll do an excellent job in transition.”
After the 2006 season, Noel said the Athletic Department will conduct a national search for a head coach for the Red. He said that Zigante will be considered as a candidate for the position on a permanent basis at that time.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer Sun Assistant Sports Editor