The women’s soccer team is kicking off their season on the heels of an unexpected announcement.

Coach Terry Gurnett — the only coach the team has ever had — is stepping down at the end of the season, after a legendary record of 410 wins in 33 years.

He told his team after an early morning training session prior to the start of school, spurring an onslaught of emotion from his players.

“There were a lot of tears,” senior defender Emily Hallam said of the team’s reaction. “But everyone respects and understands his decision.”

Gurnett’s difficult decision to step down as coach stems from a desire to spend more time with his wife and three grown children, as well as to concentrate on his new role within the athletics department as Associate Director of Athletics for Advancement.

“My kids are getting married and moving up and out and I want to spend more time with them, and my job responsibilities and my administrative roles were beginning to increase,” Gurnett said. “It was perfect timing with my family and perfect timing with my job. I didn’t ever want to be one of those coaches that coached too long or hated coaching.”

Gurnett certainly is leaving with no reason to hate coaching — he has the most wins of any NCAA DIII women’s soccer coach. His record includes 1986 and 1987 DIII National Championship wins and the team has appeared in the NCAA playoffs 19 times. Last year, the team was ranked fifth in the nation and made it to the third round of playoffs. This year, the team could make it just as far or further — and the team is looking at Gurnett’s retirement as a motivating force.

“It definitely gives us extra motivation to have a really successful season, especially for all the seniors,” senior and forward Marissa Braverman said. “At the very least, we’d really like him to go out with a UAA Championship, but ideally we want and are certainly capable of winning a NCAA Championship.”

Gurnett is also optimistic about the prospects for this year’s team, but he stresses that the players should not feel any added pressure due to his stepping down. “We always set our sights high,” he said. “We always want to win all of our games and compete for league championship, and compete for the national championship as well. It’s the same expectations we’ve always had. I’m not going to say anything like ‘win it for old Gurnett.’”

Following this season, the current assistant coach, Thomas “Sike” Dardaganis, will replace Coach Gurnett. Gurnett has worked with the women’s soccer team for nine years and also currently coaches the Rochester Jr. Rhinos. The team has high hopes for his ability to continue the impressive work of Coach Gurnett.

“The program is really in good hands for the future,” said Braverman. “Sike is a very knowledgeable coach and is devoted to the team’s success both on and off the field. I imagine the transition for the underclassmen next season will go fairly smoothly.”

Gurnett feels similarly about Dardaganis’s ability. “I’m absolutely delighted that Sike is taking my place,” he said. “He’s worked incredibly hard. There are very few people who know more or care more about this team. He was the natural choice, and really the only choice.”

As much success undoubtedly awaits the team under Dardaganis’s coaching, Gurnett’s legacy is unlikely to be forgotten after this season. While his stellar record speaks for itself, the real proof of his success as a coach is evident in the way his players relate to him. “Terry has taught me to have confidence in myself,” Hallam said, reflecting the bond that exists between coach and players. “He always believes and shows his support in all of us.”

Healy is a member of the class of 2011.

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