University Park, IL,
13:39 PM

Jaguars Kick Off Soccer

The Jaguars are hitting the soccer field as intercollegiate athletics continues to expand at Governors State University.

The Jaguars compete in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and join the growing ranks of soccer programs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which consists of 203 men's teams and 204 women's squads.

Both men’s and women’s varsity soccer began this fall, complementing seven other trailblazing teams at Governors State, formerly an upper-division only institution. In 2014, when Governors State transitioned to a full-service, four-year university, it launched a full athletic program, along with mascot Jax.

While the athletic teams help bring visibility to Governors State, Jax pumps up campus pride and was there to cheer the men’s basketball team on to a “CCAC double” victory — the CCAC regular season and tournament titles— its second season.

From the beginning, administration’s plan was to add soccer to the team lineup. However, a state-wide budget crisis forced a delay. Now this year has proven to be opportune, said Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aurélio Valente.

“Given the successes of athletics over the past four years, it was clear that the time was right to expand, and soccer was the right next step since every local high school and junior college has soccer as a team sport,” Valente said.

Staff, students, and athletes from other sports have already embraced the teams, traveling to Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights for home games.

By August 2020, Jaguars should be able to play at an Outdoor Recreation Complex on soccer fields near residence hall Prairie Place. The home field will be the first of a multi-phase project.

Meanwhile both coaches hired to launch the soccer program bring decades of experience to GSU. Men’s head coach Matt Eggert spent three seasons (2015-17) as assistant coach with the men's team at Purdue Northwest, helping the Pride to back-to-back postseason appearances as the program transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II.

Ante Cop, first head for the varsity women's soccer team, played professionally for 20 years and has coached full-time at the college level since 2005. He spent seven seasons (2007-14) as assistant men's coach at Robert Morris University.

In four months, Eggert and Cop recruited completed rosters for both teams, drawing on a wide range of local talent.

It’s an exciting addition to the sports program at GSU, said Athletic Director Anthony Bates.

“Our head coaches did a terrific job recruiting this summer and we expect both teams will be competitive within the conference,” he said. “This is our first expansion in athletics and we’re looking forward to continual growth as a department.”

Governors State also competes in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf and women's volleyball.

The women's team is now 0-7-1 overall, and 0-2-1 in the conference; while the men's team is enjoying a 4-3-0 record overall,  and 1-2-0 in the confernce. Both teams play again tonight at home (Marian Catholic).