Pittsfield names Juan Ramos as new varsity girls soccer coach; Hilary Smith introduced as top assistant

PITTSFIELD — After longtime head coach Andy Waluszko made the decision to step down following the fall season, Pittsfield girls soccer has been floating adrift as a new leader was sought.

Athletic director Jim Abel and the Pittsfield Public Schools have made a decision on the future of 'LG Nation,' one of Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts' premier programs.

In a press release made available Monday morning, Pittsfield High School announced the hiring of Juan Ramos as the new head varsity coach for Pittsfield girls soccer.

The release also included the addition of Hilary Smith as Ramos' top assistant.

"We are excited to continue to build on success that the PHS girls soccer program has experienced in recent years," Abel said via the release. "Coach Ramos brings a wealth of knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for the game of soccer that is contagious. Coach Ramos and coach Smith make a perfect fit for what we're trying to accomplish here. They have quickly built up a great rapport with our returning players, and they have a deep appreciation for the balances that are required of student-athletes."

Ramos is a long-time soccer coach, who has had stops all over the country and throughout Massachusetts. Most recently he served as assistant boys soccer coach at Drury last fall. Before that, he was with Saint Joseph's varsity boys program as head coach for two seasons. Ramos led the Crusaders to a 10-1-5 record in 2015, and a postseason victory over McCann Tech. The six-seed's run in the Division IV Western Mass. tournament came to a close in the quarterfinals with a 1-0 loss to No. 3 Westfield Tech.

According to the press release, Ramos possesses more than 25 years of coaching and teaching experience, including more than a decade at Sandia Prep in New Mexico, where his boys team reached six New Mexico State Championships. He is now a member of the Sun Devils Hall of Fame.

Ramos has also served as head coach in Massachusetts at Cohasset High School and Milton Academy, where he spent time as both a boys and girls coach. He is a life-long student of the game and a member of the U.S. Soccer Coaches Association. Ramos, who retired to the Berkshires in 2015 to be closer to family, has also served as both a boys and girls coach in the Olympic Development program.

"We've met with as many players as we could," said Ramos of he and Smith's recent introductions. "We went to school and got to see quite a few. I've been attending summer league games, and everything has been very positive. From what I can tell, they're attitude is terrific and they're ready to go out and be challenged."

Ramos will be working in tandem with Smith, and won't shy away from splitting the Generals up so some of the units can get specialized work with the former Pittsfield High player.

"She's going to be a terrific asset," he said when reached by phone on Monday. "Not just because of her familiarity with the school and some of the girls, but because she's a young ex-player, who can show them certain things on the field."

Smith served as a JV coach with the Taconic boys soccer program as recently as 2016. While she hasn't coached soccer since, she has been an assistant coach with the Western Mass. champion PHS softball program. A current seventh-grade social studies teacher within Pittsfield Public Schools, Smith has been testing the waters of moving to high school teaching and getting back into soccer coaching, and threw her name into the ring this winter.

"I was a little hesitant to apply, because I haven't been a head coach, but I spoke to Jim Abel and he said to come in and get a feel for the process," said Smith, also reached by phone. "I got advice from [softball coach] Greg Marchbanks, and I went in and interviewed. I thought it went pretty well.

"I heard from Jim Abel, and he said they thought since I hadn't been a head coach, they would bring in [Ramos] and have me work with him for a couple years, before he would maybe transition out and I would take over the program. I thought that was actually pretty perfect, because I wanted to be involved either way."

Smith graduated from UMass-Amherst with both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees after playing soccer, basketball and softball at PHS.

The two met soon after hearing about the offers and have since been collaboratively crafting a plan for the Generals.

"It's been great. He's been super open and receptive to ideas and how we want to structure the atmosphere and culture of the team," said Smith.

Coming from a background coaching primarily high-level boys soccer in the past, Ramos is looking forward to delving into see what the Pittsfield girls are capable of and what the Western Mass. Division I landscape is.

"Coming in to the Berkshires [in 2015], I wasn't sure what level it was. It will be interesting to see how much the changes of the game have reached here," said Ramos. "I'm excited to figure out what we'll be teaching, or do I even need to teach certain things."

On top of that recent meeting with returning and prospective players, Ramos and Smith hope to have a sit-down with the rising senior class to discuss captains and expectations as soon as this week.

"The expectations are fairly simple," Ramos said via the press release. "We're going to have fun, compete aggressively and represent our school with pride on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Winning is a by-product of a culture in which all the players value these goals, support each other, and enjoy the experience of being a high school athlete."

Waluszko coached Pittsfield High for 10 years, leading the Generals to four Berkshire County North Division titles and two Western Mass. D-I title games.

The PHS soccer season kicks-off with tryouts beginning on Aug. 24, with the team set to open up their regular season at Lenox shortly after Labor Day.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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