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Romagnolo Headed for Notre Dame

Big Green Soccer Coach Leaves for New Challenge

Former Dartmouth College women's soccer coach Theresa Romagnolo is taking the same position at Notre Dame. She was 25-22-3 during three seasons with the Big Green. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Former Dartmouth College women's soccer coach Theresa Romagnolo is taking the same position at Notre Dame. She was 25-22-3 during three seasons with the Big Green. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Hanover — Former Dartmouth College women’s soccer coach Theresa Romagnolo has accepted the same position at Notre Dame, two of her former players said Thursday. Dartmouth posted an online ad for the job Wednesday but neither Romagnolo nor college officials responded to messages left for them Wednesday or Thursday.

Marina Moschitto, a four-year Dartmouth player who will graduate in the spring with a psychology degree, said she arranged to meet Romagnolo on Wednesday to say goodbye to a woman she considers a mentor.

“I was surprised to hear about it, but at the same time, as soon as I heard she was going to Notre Dame, I was completely understanding,” Moschitto said of Romagnolo, who during three seaons was 25-22-3 overall and 12-9 in Ivy League play. “She was telling me how when she was (an assistant) at Stanford in 2010, they lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA finals.

“There was just energy coming off her with how excited she is for that high level of competition.

Romagnolo was a Stanford assistant from 2008-10, helping the Cardinals go 70-4-3 and twice advance to the national title game during that span. She was a University of San Diego assistant from 2003-07, a professional player for three seasons and helped the University of Washington win its first Pac-10 title as a senior in 2000.

Upon her arrival at Dartmouth early in 2011, Romagnolo quickly began to change the program’s culture, instilling a stronger work ethic and having the Big Green focus on fitness in order to be able to play the soccer equivalent of a full-court press in basketball.

“She brought an expectation of excellence and pushed us way harder than we had been before,” said Emma Brush, a former Dartmouth player who graduated in December and said she heard of Romagnolo’s new destination from a former teammate still on campus. “We took it to other teams from the get-go and our attack started from the back.”

Brush and Moschitto were both switched from midfielder to forward and thrived at their new positions under Romagnolo — once they adapted to the coach’s demanding ways.

“My first day playing under her, she gave us this insanely hard fitness test and I thought it was awful,” Moschitto said. “But a year later, that test was something I could do in my sleep. The 2012 season was completely due to her making high demands of us and being able to get them out of us.”

Romagnolo inherited a program that had gone 7-7-2 and finished second in the Ivies during 2010, then posted overall records of 4-12, 13-4 and 8-6-3. Her second Big Green squad posted the second-highest winning percentage in program history, was the Ancient Eight’s runner-up and narrowly missed the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2005.

“She set a new culture, and our turnaround was unbelievable,” said Brush, who graduated in December and is teaching in San Francisco while waiting to begin graduate school. “Theresa seemed totally focused on us, but I speculated that she one day she’d get asked to a top-notch program. I just didn’t expect it would necessarily be this year.”

Brush said Romagnolo motivated without drama or volume, but also stressed a no-nonsense approach. The coach quickly discerned players’ weaknesses and had them practice those skills until they became strengths, she added.

“She has a very calm demeanor, which is kind of scary in a way,” Brush said. “She’s not a yeller but she doesn’t take any flak, and she expects nothing less than everything you can bring. She reads people and figures out how to push them.

“She’s very young, but she’s advancing up the ladder so quickly, it makes you think of that saying that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll end up among the stars.”

The Notre Dame job opened in early January when 15-year coach Randy Waldrum resigned to guide the expansion Houston Dash of the Women’s International Soccer League. Waldrum led the Fighting Irish to national titles in 2004 and 2010 and was 292-58-17 while twice earning national coach of the year honors. Notre Dame reached the national semifinals eight times and the finals five times under him.

Notre Dame was 13-8-1 last season, losing in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game and in the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Irish play at Alumni Stadium, built for $7.5 million in 2009 and which has attracted crowds of more than 3,000.

In South Bend, Ind., Romagnolo will join former Dartmouth men’s soccer coach Bobby Clark, who’s guided that program since 2001 and won last season’s national title.

Moschitto was in the midst of final exams this week when a younger friend still on the team forwarded her a Romagnolo email detailing her exit from Dartmouth.

“I texted her and said I definitely wanted to see her before she left, because she is such an incredible coach,” Moschitto said. “Her competitive nature will let her thrive at Notre Dame and a lot of girls are going to want to play for her there.”

Said Brush: “I’m so excited and I can’t wait for her to win the national championship.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.