In its 33-year history, the Rochester women’s soccer program has won two national championships and a dozen UAA championships. The Yellowjackets have appeared in 19 NCAA tournaments, and have had 27 all-America selections.
And they’ve done it all under the guidance of just one head coach, Terry Gurnett ’77. A former Yellowjacket soccer player himself, Gurnett was working in the student loan office when he was asked if he was interested in helping start the women’s team.
“I hadn’t the foggiest notion of what I was doing—and some will say I still don’t,” Gurnett jokes as he gets ready to lead the Yellowjackets this fall for their 34th campaign—and his last as head coach. “I just had the knack of being in the right place at the right time.”
That place has been as the leader of a Yellowjacket program that over three decades has compiled a record of 410 wins, 131 losses, and 62 ties, making Gurnett the winningest coach in NCAA Division III women’s soccer and the third winningest coach in all divisions. The team won the inaugural women’s Division III title in 1986 and repeated as champions in 1987.
Gurnett announced late this summer that he would hand over his coaching duties to longtime assistant coach Thomas (Sike) Dardaganis when the season ends. Gurnett plans to focus on his duties as associate director of athletics for Advancement, where he has helped build the Friends of Rochester Athletics over the past several years, and to spend more time with his family.
He also will continue his work as the national chair of the all-American selection committee for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and run soccer camps during the summer.
“I am grateful that Terry wants to dedicate all of his time and energies to the continued growth of the Friends,” says George VanderZwaag, director of the Department of Athletics and Recreation. “His enormous contributions to our department through his coaching role with women’s soccer can only be replaced by his continued efforts to make our overall program as strong as it possibly can be.”
Gurnett, who has worked for the University since his graduation in 1977, says he’s marveled at the growth of women’s athletics over the past half century.
“The biggest change has been in the respect given to female athletes and the way that female athletes are thought about,” he says. “You don’t even have to say ‘female athletes.’ They’re athletes, and they represent the very highest ideals.”
As for the timing of his announcement, Gurnett says he had always hoped he’d be able to recognize when it was time to step down.
“It’s just time,” he says. “I never wanted to get to the point where I didn’t love coaching any more. That would be a terrible disservice to the team.”
As for the legacy he leaves behind, Gurnett is quick to point out that, like in the game of soccer, coaching also requires a strong team effort.
“The University has let me borrow this team,” he says. “They’ve let me be the guardian of it for a few years. Sike’s going to take over. He knows and cares about this program as much as anyone. It will be in great hands.
“I feel blessed that I’ve been able to work with such amazing people over such a long time. The legacy, if there is one, is that we’ve tried to do it right. We’ve been fair and honest and done the best we can at all times.”