After four years as an assistant coach with the Red, Gretchen Zigante is ready to leave her own mark on the program. This season, Zigante will lead the women’s soccer team as its interim head coach, a job she relishes.
“I feel comfortable in the role,” Zigante said. “It is a great challenge, and something that is very, very enjoyable to do.”
The team has responded in kind to Zigante’s enthusiasm. Zigante was successful in bringing in an extremely talented recruiting class of eight players and one incoming transfer.
These newcomers have already begun to make an impact for Cornell. Freshman phenom Eva Dixon has been superb at forward, while senior forward Alison McKeown, an Ithaca native, has been a strong addition since coming over from Penn State. The Red is very eager to show what it can do for Zigante and is happy to have her as its leader.
[img_assist|nid=18226|title=One to beat|desc=Junior midfielder Mariye Wick drives past a St. Bonaventure defender during the Red’s 0-0 tie with the Bonnies last Wednesday. (Ryan Dunn / Sun Staff)|link=popup|align=left|width=95|height=100]
“She has worked really hard to bring in a great recruiting class,” said freshman forward Kate Bubrick. “She has worked hard to make sure we are all working toward the same goal, for the program. She is awesome.”
Zigante has a long history in the sport of soccer. She made a name for herself as a keeper with a University of North Carolina team that won the 1986 NCAA championship, and went on to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team which included a one-year stint playing with the legendary Mia Hamm. Following her last year at North Carolina, Zigante became an assistant coach at Colorado College. Zigante then played professionally in Japan before returning to the States to begin her coaching career. As a head coach at Division-II powerhouse California State—San Bernadino, Zigante earned the California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year Award in 1995. Zigante also worked at San Diego State as an assistant, helping the team to the NCAA playoffs in 1998 and 1999.
Zigante is excited to be at Cornell, and looks forward to taking this program to the next level. Despite a rocky 1-2-1 start, including a current three-game winless streak, Zigante and the Red remain focused.
“We have accomplished a lot in the first four games,” Zigante said. “With a new coach, new players, a new system and a new competitive attitude, and also a higher competitive arena, with higher expectations for everyone, both individually and as a team.”
Zigante remains confident in her team.
“We have done well,” Zigante said. “We were certainly frustrated this past weekend, but we have shown the passion that we need. The results don’t show yet how good of a team we are, and I think we are going to surprise some people. We want to improve in the Ivy League; we want to be better than last [place], certainly, maybe in the middle of the pack, and in a couple of years from now, I want to be playing for the division.”
Zigante points to the Cornell players as her favorite thing about the program.
“The Cornell students are special people. They are tremendous athletes, but also wonderful people. They bring a sense of character and integrity to competing and everything they do off the field. They are easy to work with and very enjoyable,” Zigante said.
The players have responded positively to Zigante, and so far, the team has been a tight-knit unit, on and off the field.
“Our team has so much pride in what we do, and we are so much of a family as a team,” Bubrick said. “She has a really good sense of humor. We eat dinner together after the game, and we are all very friendly.”