Esteban BustillosManaging Editor
Marcelo YatesMercury Staff
New assistant coach plans to push athletes toward championship
After months of searching, head coach Kanute Drugan announced Sterling Mueller as the new assistant coach for the soccer program.
Mueller began her duties on May 19. She will also be the assistant coach for the women’s tennis team.
There were more than 75 applicants who applied for the job, some of whom had collegiate head coaching experience, Drugan said, but he kept coming back to Mueller.
“She had all the qualities we’re looking for,” Drugan said. “I wanted somebody who understood the commitment to academic excellence here, along with a commitment to athletic excellence, and she had a career that proved that.”
A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., Mueller played four seasons at the University of North Carolina, where she was a member of three NCAA Division I national championship teams and four straight Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship teams during her time there.
“She’s been taught through her upbringing in soccer at UNC about the importance of little details,” Drugan said. “One of the things that was lacking in this program was that little details were not a concern. That’s one big way that she can step in and make a positive impact. Another way is as a role model. She’s going to embody what it takes to be a champion. Until you become a champion, you don’t know what it takes to be a champion.”
Although she has had some experience coaching at the youth and secondary school level, this will be Mueller’s first foray into the world of collegiate coaching.
“I actually heard about (the opportunity) through Taylor Maeker, who played here,” Mueller said. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity kind of like this, and when she told me about the position it sounded awesome so I started looking into it.”
Mueller said she really connected with Drugan when she had her interview because their coaching
style and philosophy matched up well and their vision for the team was very similar.
Although Mueller was hired right at the start of summer, when many players aren’t on campus, she has had the chance to make a first impression on some of the members of the team, including Sarah Borg, one of the senior captains.
“When I first met her she seemed like a really cool (person),”Borg said. “My first impression was that she was really smart and she knows a lot about soccer. She also seemed pretty relaxed and like she wasn’t somebody who would make for a stressful environment. She seems like somebody who will be really good around us at our age.”
Drugan was seemed pleased with how Mueller connected with the players that she met, saying they “love her” and that he’s sure they like her better than they like him.
Mueller and Drugan want to take a focus for details and apply them to the team, in areas other than just the games, Mueller said. She said they’ll be implementing ways to keep practice competitive and grading players on their performance so the players can see their growth and development.
A big take away that she took from her playing days at UNC was a focus on embracing the journey, she said.
She learned to embrace the experience of getting to her goals and she wants to help the players here understand that when they enjoy the journey and do the right things, the outcomes take care of themselves, she said.
Mueller said there would be some adjustments that she would have to make to transition into coaching at the Div. III level.
“It’s going to be a different level that I’ll be coaching at,” Mueller said. “They’re women as opposed to girls and they’ll be better than some of the girls that I’ve coached previously. It’s a challenge I’m excited about. I remember being a college soccer player and there are things that I was unaware of then that I want to share with (the players) so that they can be the best they can be.”
Despite the challenges that come with the new territory as an assistant coach, Mueller said that she and Drugan both have high hopes for the team.
“We want to get a national championship during our time here,” Mueller said. “I was fortunate enough to get three championships while I was at UNC and I want to do it at the coaching level now.”