The UNC Asheville men’s soccer team launched this semester with the introduction of a new head coach transitioning to the program from Loyola Marymount University in California.
Mathes Mennell, assistant head coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams at LMU for 14 years, will begin coaching during the fall 2015 season. According to Mennell, the move to UNCA has been an exciting transition.
“These players have to come into practices with the mindset that they are going to put in the hard work,” Mennell said. “We’ve got a system put in place where, even when these kids are gone for the summer, they will still have that mindset and discipline when the season starts in the fall. I want us to become the best team in the Big South Conference and then North Carolina. It’s a lofty, but achievable goal.”
Mennell graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996. He went on to play for the United Soccer League’s Colorado Foxes and Pikes Peak Stampede teams before becoming assistant coach at LMU from 1998-2000, the Air Force Academy from 2000-2002 and again at LMU from 2002-2013. Mennell has appeared in the NCAA Tournament seven times during his 14-year tenure at LMU.
Janet Cone, UNCA director of athletics said Mennell’s experience on the West Coast met the needs and expectations of the student athletes and soccer team.
“He impressed everyone he met on his interview, from the search committee to the student athletes,” Cone said. “He has the soccer expertise and leadership experience to direct our soccer program to new heights.”
Cole Schwietering, junior defender for the men’s soccer team, said that Mennell’s experience brings a promising future to the team.
” Mennell has a military and tactical mindset that he probably picked up while at the Air Force Academy,” Schwietering said. “He emphasizes our hard work and dedication which I see being very beneficial to our team and something that is going to pay off.”
Mennell said he expects team effort and discipline.
According to Joey Cutting, senior midfielder for the soccer team, a search committee comprised of administrators and student athletes snatched Mennell from California for the position after former men’s soccer head coach, Matt Kern, was not rehired for the 2014 season. Cutting was the student athlete representative on the committee.
“He’s extremely qualified and everything we could imagine for our next coach,” Cutting said. “He has lots of experience and has done it all. His experience is something that is very appealing. He’s going to add structure, organization and things that will affect this program for years and years to come.”
Mennell said he will build up the players as both students and athletes on and off the field. Based on his experiences as both a soccer player and head coach, Mennell has lessons to share with his new team.
“The term “student athlete” is pretty paramount to me and my first priority is to graduate these kids,” Mennell said. “However, when they are on the field, they should value not getting too excited. If they lose a game, they will know that the sun will always rise again. I told them when I first met them on Jan. 20 at 9 p.m., this is when it begins.”