In the age of social media it’s hard to keep a secret. But when the athletes of Penn women’s soccer were called in for a meeting Thursday afternoon with coach Darren Ambrose, none of the players had heard the news.
Ambrose informed his players together at 4:30pm that he would be resigning immediately to accept the head coaching position at Vanderbilt University.
“None of us knew why we were having the meeting,” junior defensive back Caroline Dwyer said. “It was definitely a shock for all of us.”
Ambrose, who has coached the Red and Blue for the past 15 seasons, commented on the atmosphere in the room when he made his announcement.
“It was the most emotional athletic meeting I’ve had as a coach or a player … Some girls were visibly shaken. A lot of tears were shed.”
Because of the commitment Ambrose has made to the university over these 15 seasons, a departure was not an easy decision. But after the Commodores’ former-coach resigned in December, Vanderbilt came knocking on Ambrose’s door.
The winningest coach in Penn history was reluctant when he was first contacted. However, the more he weighed the opportunity, the more seriously he considered a chance to coach an SEC powerhouse.
Ultimately it was the whole package which lured Ambrose to Vanderbilt.
“I didn’t have to compromise the core values of collegiate athletics,” he said. “Vanderbilt is one of the few schools out of the Ivy League that does that.”
The academic excellence of Vanderbilt coupled with the chance to match up against perennial powers Texas A&M and Florida were too much for Ambrose to turn down.
Even though he maintains that he has been happy at Penn, he mentioned that he always encourages his players to step out of their comfort zone in order to grow.
“I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t follow that mantra,” Ambrose bluntly stated. “I’ll be a better coach and person for doing so.”
The Red and Blue players will now have to step out of their comfort zone as well if they hope to move past this unexpected announcement and succeed. Dwyer will face an especially tough time.
The Exton, Pa. native had a particularly close relationship with Ambrose. He was her club coach for two-and-a-half years before she came to Penn and surprisingly almost cut her during her sophomore year of high school because she missed a tryout due to a case of mono.
As a result, she and her teammates are facing mixed emotions regarding Ambrose’s announcement.
“We’re obviously happy for him,” Dwyer stated, “but it kind of makes you think about the reasons you play the sport.”
College soccer wasn’t on Dwyer’s radar in high school. Ambrose changed that.
His devotion to her was the entire reason she came to play at Penn.
“He’s more than just a coach to a lot of us,” she said. “I had never wanted to play college soccer, but the interest he showed in me made me believe in myself again.”
Under Ambrose’s guidance, Dwyer blossomed and was even named to the 2013 All-American third team during her sophomore season, only the second time a member of the program has ever received such an honor.
It will definitely be an uphill battle for the Quakers, who are focused on their three upcoming spring games. At practice today, interim head coach Ken Masuhr had to address the ‘elephant in the room,’ according to Dwyer. But with work to be done, there’s no stopping for the Red and Blue.
“We have to remember that we’re not just playing for him [Ambrose],” Dwyer proudly remarked. “We’re playing for Penn. We’re playing for coach Ken. We’re playing for coach Emily Perrin. We’re playing for coach Martin Leeds, and we’re playing for each other.”
Ambrose will make the trip to Nashville on Feb. 9 and will meet with one of the Commodores’ assistant coaches.
Down the road he will need to make staffing decisions, including whether he will ask his assistants from Penn to join him. For now though, Ambrose says it’s too early to tell. He would not disclose the details of his deal with Vanderbilt.
A new era is about to be ushered in for Penn women’s soccer. But, with Dwyer and 2014 All-Region selections Erin Mikolai and Kalijah Terilli entering their senior seasons, 2015 holds promise for the Quakers no matter who is sitting at the helm.Comments powered by Disqus
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