Williams College women's soccer names Sarah Raymond new head coach
WILLIAMSTOWN — When successful coaches leave jobs, the shoes that need filling are pretty big. The new women's soccer coach at Williams College knows just how big they are, because Sarah Raymond has spent the past four seasons working for Michelyne Pinard.
"There's no question that this is a different transition than what I have had in the past," Raymond said. "I think I'm really thankful that I was actually a part of it for the last four years. I think, if you were coming in to fill Michelyne's shoes without knowing everything that I do now, it would be even harder.
"I was so fortunate to work alongside Mish over these four years, and together, I think we've created something really special. Clearly, she had put in so much hard work leading up to all that. It was a privilege just to be a part of it."
Raymond takes over a Williams program that won three of the last five NCAA Division III national championships, and had two Elite Eight appearances in years the Ephs did not win a championship.
The new coach was hired after a nationwide search that began in earnest at the conclusion of the 2019 season, a campaign that Williams finished 11-5-4, and one hit post away from another trip to the Final Four. The Ephs lost to Middlebury in the NESCAC Tournament semifinals, but earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Williams beat Gettysburg and eliminated MIT on penalty kicks in the first and second rounds. Heading to Messiah College for the Sweet 16, Williams knocked off NESCAC rival Tufts 2-1, but was eliminated by host Messiah following a 2-2 draw and penalty kicks.
Raymond joined Pinard's staff four years ago after having spent six years as the head coach at Division III Clarkson University.
"She distinguished herself among an extremely strong field of candidates," Williams Director of Athletics Lisa Melendy said in a statement. "The committee was impressed with her deep knowledge of the game of soccer, and her equally deep understanding of the role of athletics at a liberal arts college."
Pinard spent 18 years as the Williams coach. At the end of the school year, she and her family will head to Ojai, Calif., where she will be come the athletic director at the Thacher School, a private boarding school.
"If I wasn't here, this would be the sort of job that I would be aspiring toward anyway," said Raymond, in a phone interview with The Eagle from her office at Williams. "It's a premier job in terms of my profession. It's one of the top jobs in the country. Williams is a fantastic college. It's a wonderful place to live. All of those things would be something I would have been seeking after anyway. Having worked here, with the incredible students that we get to interact with daily, it was a no-brainer for me [to apply]. I was so excited to put my name in the ring, and hopefully have a great opportunity to take over for Mish."
Raymond said that, while she was on Pinard's staff and on campus, she went through the entire interview process from scratch. That included a first-round telephone interview from her home in Williamstown. There was a pool of 84 initial candidates, spanning all three divisions in NCAA soccer.
The new coach was offered the job on Wednesday, and accepted immediately.
Pinard, who was hired to replace Melendy in 2002, leaves Williams with a career 268-51-38 record. Williams won eight NESCAC titles under Pinard's watch, made 13 consecutive NCAA Division III tourney fields and 14 overall, and made it to the NCAA Final Four in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Williams won NCAA titles in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
A native of Darwin, Australia, Raymond was the head coach at Division III Skidmore College from 2003-09, posting a record of 89-42-20. The Thoroughbreds made it to seven Liberty League tournaments and earned a pair of NCAA bids. She was the 2011 Liberty League coach of the year.
At Clarkson, Raymond led her team to its first winning season since 1992, when the Golden Knights went 8-7-1. She spent six years at Clarkson before coming to Williams four seasons ago. Her career record is 126-98-27.
Prior to her coaching career, Raymond was a member of the Australian Women's National Team from 1991-2001, and was captain in 1996. She participated in World Cups in 1995 and 1999.
Raymond will be assisted by Eileen Blumenauer, who joined the staff last year. Blumenauer came to Williams after four years as the head coach at Utica College.
Raymond's husband Mark is the football coach at Williams. Blumenauer's husband Tom is the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator under Mark Raymond.
When Sarah Raymond's first Williams team takes to Cole Field next season, it won't look markedly different from the teams Pinard had.
"Initially, it's going to look pretty much the same, with a few tweaks," she said. "We have, apart from Middlebury, the shortest preseason in the country. It makes no sense to come in and try to do something completely different, from a time point of view. There's no reason to come and do something completely different, because what we're currently doing is pretty successful. I want to start from a place where all the returnees know what they're doing so they can help the freshmen with their initiation of getting up to speed for what we currently do within the team.
"While Williams has played a certain formation for a number of years, I'm a big believer that we just need to make sure we're playing the right formation that is going to get the most out of our players."
Williams graduates seven, including All-American defender Nkem Iregbulem. But the Ephs return All-American and NESCAC player of the year Veronica Laino. Laino led the Ephs with eight goals and two assists. Williams graduates only four of the 36 goals it scored. The Ephs should also get midfielder Ilana Albert of Pittsfield back at full strength. Albert suffered a knee injury and played only four games.
As to next year, the new Williams coach said she's excited about the first-year players who will be attending.
"The majority of them, six of them, were already committed at the point of them hearing about Michelyne moving on. That was, committed as in they wanted to come to Williams. They hadn't been accepted or anything like that," Raymond said. "They certainly had the opportunity, potentially, to withdraw. None of them did. We're excited that, one, they're choosing Williams because it's going to be a great fit for them. I had a lot to do with this class coming in. Now that they know there's going to be some continuity with the coaching staff, they're really excited they know who is going to be their head coach.
"It's a really solid class. Across the board in terms of positions, starting from the goalkeeper up to a target. They're really talented, hard-working and great people. I'm super excited to have them be, in the end, in my first recruiting class."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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