By Pat Mariboe
Senior Sports Writer
On Jan. 24, the Washington College Athletics Department announced that women’s soccer Head Coach Kerry Smith would be departing from her position. Smith, who failed to coach her side to a single Centennial Conference in her time at WC, led the team for the past three seasons. Nearly two months later, it was announced that New Jersey native Tom Reilly would be stepping into the head coaching role.
Reilly certainly isn’t a stranger to the sport, as he coached his way through 446 high school soccer games and was also inducted into the renowned New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Reilly most recently finished a storied 32-year coaching career for the boys varsity team at Ocean Township High School in NJ, with three of those seasons spent coaching the girls team as well.
Reilly will be reunited with a familiar face in current men’s soccer head coach Roy Dunshee, as both attended and played soccer together at the University of South Carolina. Reilly’s experience both on the sideline and on the field speaks for itself, as he stands in the Gamecocks’ top 15 all-time leading goal scorers and also led the team in total points and goals during the 1981 season. Both Reilly and Dunshee are also a part of Coerver Coaching, a program that provides camps and clinics to both aspiring and veteran coaches.
Although Reilly has only officially been in his new position for a few weeks, he’s looking forward to getting the ball rolling.
“I’m still learning my players’ tendencies and abilities so we are just working on skill acquisition and general principles of play,” he said. “As we learn more about each other we will begin to figure out a system of play and a formation that gives us the best chance of success. Since I am not that familiar with the rest of the Centennial Conference teams I couldn’t possibly predict whether we can crack the code immediately, but we will be training very hard to make our mark on the division. Obviously, we will enter every contest with the mindset that ‘today will be that day.’ We want to win games, and if we can’t manage to win that day we want our opponents to know they’ve been in a battle and had to work very hard to overcome our challenge.”
Reilly isn’t walking into this new endeavor blind however, as assistant coach Julia Kantor, who coached with Smith last season, is also feeling confident about the new change and is excited for the season ahead.
“During the interview process, the minute he sat down with the team and I at lunch, it was an instant connection,” said Kantor. “My first impressions were optimistic and grateful that Coach Reilly was considered for the position. The way he spoke about his experiences throughout coaching and being a player himself, I knew right away he would be the perfect candidate for the job. Coach Reilly is extremely compassionate for the game and the new position, is well-deserved. Working under a new head coach such as Coach Reilly has given a significant confidence boost to both myself and the team. Coach Reilly has impeccable coaching experience and his knowledge for the game will, without a doubt, contribute towards the building of a successful program from this point onward. From the day Coach Reilly accepted the job, he has immediately put in excessive efforts into the growth of the Women’s Soccer program. It is an honor to be working with him and I am excited to see the positive results that are sure to come in both the upcoming season and the future.”
Although it will serve as a new learning experience for a vast majority of the team, the senior team members particularly stand out as a group of players to look out for next season. Many started their freshman year on the team under Smith and will now be ending their WC careers with a new face at the helm. One of those upcoming seniors, Maribeth Harrington, is eager for the new opportunity and is excited to work with Reilly.
“Our first impressions of Coach Reilly were very positive,” said Harrington. “He is extremely knowledgeable and qualified as a coach who is very passionate about the game. Our team is so excited to work and grow under the leadership of Coach Reilly. We just began our spring season practices with him and we couldn’t be happier with what we have accomplished in such a small amount of time. As I sadly approach my senior year, I expect WC Women’s Soccer team to have the best season yet. Our team chemistry, talent, and energy aligns very well with Coach Reilly and his plans for us in the future. I know my fellow seniors want nothing more than to make Coach Reilly, Coach Jules, and our teammates proud.”
Although the upcoming season is still months away, Reilly has his sights on making a name for himself at WC and going for goal come September.
“As far as what I’m looking forward to working with this group is concerned, I absolutely love my team,” said Reilly. “These young women are dedicated, hardworking, and getting better every day. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such an impressive group of people. Right now we aren’t concerned about wins and losses. We are learning to play properly and put in good performances. If we do that, the results will follow.”