Maroons make history: UChicago men’s soccer team wins first NCAA championship

Julianne Sitch becomes first female to coach men’s soccer team to title

The University of Chicago men’s soccer team completed its storybook season on Saturday, winning the program’s first national championship—and making history under coach Julianne Sitch, who became the first female to coach a men’s soccer team to an NCAA title.

With its 2-0 victory over Williams College on Dec. 3, UChicago finished the season undefeated at 22-0-1.

“The credit goes to the team—I mean, these guys have never had a female coach before, and they embraced me as one of their own. And for me, that will forever be a grateful moment,” Sitch said following the game. 

“Just to watch them play, I’m extremely proud. They wear their heart on their sleeve, they show up every day,” said Sitch, in her first year as UChicago head coach. “The energy, the support, the togetherness, this is a team. We had a heck of a lot of fun this year, and this is a really great way to end our season.”

The game was scoreless until the 66th minute, when third-year student Robbie Pino blasted a shot from 28 yards out into the upper left corner of the goal.

The UChicago defense, which only allowed one shot on goal all game against Williams (10-2-11), held strong the rest of the way. In the final minute, UChicago’s Ryan Shea sent a perfect pass up field to a sprinting RyanYetishefsky, who outran the defenders and sent a shot into an empty net with 34 seconds left.

The team doused their coach with Powerade as they ran onto the field to celebrate their victory. The title was a special moment in the making for the Maroons, who had advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals four times previously in its history, but never made it out of the Final Four.

After the match, former players in attendance from the UChicago teams that reached the program’s previous Final Four appearances—in 2021, 2018, 2017 and 1996—gathered with the current Maroons to take a photo with the national championship trophy.

“That’s a special moment,” said Griffin Wada, a fourth-year student. “I think the moment that’s going to stick with me is after (Ryan Yetishefsky) scored that goal, we all ran over to that sideline, and it was all the alumni that we played with, and we watched play in the past. They all celebrated with us—that’s a special moment, because we wouldn’t be here without those guys.”

The national title is the second NCAA championship in UChicago’s modern era history; the men’s tennis team won the Division III championship last spring.

“It’s an unbelievable moment,” Sitch said. “We talked about (our team) just having this hunger from where they’ve been in the past and being here, and you this year, from the beginning, just felt different. The way that they showed up, their mentality, they came in extremely fit, and they’ve held the standards extremely high all of season, and I think every single day and every single game, we’ve just continued to become more and more of a team, and today, that showed on the field, just the grit, the resiliency, and everyone playing for each other.

“All the supporters—our bench was just electric—we always talk about how it takes everyone to win a national championship, and I think we showed that today.”