Greg Jarosik

Greg Jarosik is the 2019 World-Herald’s Midlands college women’s coach of the year.

Greg Jarosik vividly remembers the look in his players’ eyes as they prepared for overtime against the fifth-ranked team in the country.

The Midland women’s soccer team was making its first appearance in the NAIA Round of 16. The Warriors had just played perennial power Martin Methodist (Tenn.) to a 1-1 tie through 90 minutes.

“Collectively, the look on all our faces was that we belong here,” Jarosik said. “We just went toe to toe with the No. 5 team in the country. It was that moment of belief.”

Midland went on to upset Martin Methodist, winning a shootout 3-1. The next day, the Warriors were in a scoreless tie at halftime with Southeastern (Fla.) before Uchenna Kanu — who started for Nigeria during this summer’s Women’s World Cup — scored three second-half goals to lead Southeastern to a 3-1 quarterfinal win.

But the postseason run showed that Midland had taken a huge step forward in its progression as a program.

The Warriors had never been nationally ranked in program history before going 14-2-3 in 2017. This season’s run to the quarterfinal left Midland ranked ninth in the NAIA final poll. It also was the first time a team from the GPAC had advanced to the national quarterfinals in women’s soccer.

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“It certainly put our name on the map,” said Jarosik, who has been selected as The World-Herald’s Midlands college women’s coach of the year.

Jarosik will enter his seventh season as Midland’s coach this fall. Expectations will be lofty, as the Warriors had just one senior on last year’s team.

“I think our players are more driven now than they’ve ever been. The entire offseason, the girls have been really focused,” Jarosik said. “We’re looking forward to see what they’re going to do.”

Midland had four players earn All-America honors last season, and all four are expected to be in the lineup this fall. Goalkeeper Rachel Thigpen, who set a school record with 14 shutouts last season, became the first player in GPAC history to be named a first-team All-American. Nayeli Rodriguez, the conference’s offensive player of the year, was a second-team All-American, defender Alaina Melanson was third-team, and PT Perez, the 2017 GPAC offensive player of the year, was honorable mention.

And those four all played on the same club team in the San Diego area before coming to Midland. Jarosik has built a California pipeline over the years, as he said this year’s roster could feature as many as 19 players from that state.

“For them to play at a high level and bring it to the Midwest has been huge for us,” Jarosik said. “We’ve got a good group of girls who are in it for the right reasons. They’re in it for each other.”

Jarosik wants his team to face a challenging nonconference schedule — its first two games will be against teams that finished in the top 15 in the 2018 poll. But he also calls the GPAC “a very underrated conference.” The top three, Hastings, Midland and Concordia, combined for one loss in regular-season league last year. Hastings finished the season ranked 11th.

Midland was second in the regular season and lost in the GPAC tournament semifinals, 1-0 to Concordia, last year.

“I think they really want to go out on top this fall,” Jarosik said of his seniors.

Jarosik, an Omaha Bryan graduate, has spent most of the last two decades coaching soccer. His first coaching job was with Gretna, helping the Dragons win a state title in 2002. He also coached at Papio South, Doane and the William Penn men before arriving at Midland. The past three seasons, Jarosik’s Warriors have compiled a 43-10-7 record.

“I really enjoy working with the players,” he said. “I love watching them grow; I love watching them develop; I love watching them prepare for the next chapter of their lives.”

Other Finalists

Chris Clements, Hastings soccer: Clements, who this spring accepted the head coaching job at NCAA Division II Minot State, led the Broncos to the GPAC regular season and tournament titles. Hastings had the first unbeaten regular season in program history, finished 17-1-3 and reached the Round of 16 in the NAIA tourney. Clements' career record at Hastings was 81-17-10.

Drew Olson, Concordia basketball: Olson was last year's coach of the year when the Bulldogs rolled to a 36-1 record before losing in the NAIA championship game. This year, Concordia lost three conference games, but it claimed the ultimate prize when it won the national title. He's Concordia's all-time winningest coach with a 353-96 record.

Rick Squiers, UNK volleyball: With a team that specialized in defense, Squiers' Lopers claimed the No. 1 spot in the national poll before finishing the season 33-3. They were 8-0 in five-set matches before losing a season-ending five-setter in the regional tourney. Playing in one of the toughest conferences in NCAA Division II, UNK won the MIAA regular season and tournament titles.