CHAMPAIGN — Megan Gosda hasn’t had much luck getting to work with the St. Thomas More girls’ soccer team since arriving at the school before the 2018-19 school year.
“I was supposed to be the JV girls’ coach the first year, but I had a baby and the baby came early, so that was a short-lived season,” said the 27-year-old, who also has been a Sabers boys’ soccer assistant for the previous two school years. “And then last season I was an assistant as well, but then COVID happened. I haven’t actually spent much time with the girls’ team.”
Third time’s the charm, right? Except Gosda now will be in charge of STM’s team when the planned 2021 girls’ soccer campaign rolls around.
Gosda’s promotion was announced Aug. 31 by Sabers athletic director Jon Marston.
Gosda is replacing longtime Sabers soccer coach James Johnson, who in May stepped down as coach of both the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs at STM. Jake Sellett, a 2018 STM graduate, was named the new boys’ program leader in June.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Gosda said. “The opportunity to take over a program James built up so much, I’m so excited to be a part of that and continue on the legacy he started at STM.”
This marks Gosda’s first high school head coaching gig, but the social studies teacher has a strong soccer background.
Gosda helped Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School to a state championship as a junior. That school, Gosda said, boasted six separate teams within its girls’ soccer program, whereas the Sabers have just varsity and JV outfits.
Gosda went on to play club soccer while attending college at the University of Nebraska, serving as president of that team for two years.
“It’s a big difference coming here,” Gosda said, “which is honestly probably why I would play with the boys here all the time and be able to play with them.”
Gosda said it was only natural for her to connect with Johnson and the STM soccer program upon her arrival in Champaign from a prior job at Sioux City, Iowa — at a school that didn’t offer soccer to its students.
“I’ve played my whole life,” Gosda said. “When I met James, we hit it off right off the bat. I’ve had a longstanding relationship with soccer.”
Gosda has sizeable shoes to fill with Johnson no longer in the Sabers’ fold. He guided the STM girls to 111 victories in eight seasons — not counting the 2020 stint that was wiped out by the pandemic. Among those impressive accomplishments was a Class 1A fourth-place effort in 2015, three sectional titles and eight regional crowns.
“The first thing is definitely honor and pressure,” Gosda said of her initial thoughts about being named the girls’ coach. “I definitely want to honor what he has done here, to continue that legacy. It’s definitely a lot of pressure to come out and get the girls ready to handle the adjustment well from James to myself. It’s going to be a big change, especially for the seniors.”
Gosda said an early hallmark of her coaching tenure will be instilling a dynamic work ethic within her crew.
“I was the player that gave 110 percent on the field all the time, and that’s what I ask of my players,” Gosda said. “As long as we’re working hard and playing to our potential, that’s how I’m going to coach them.”
The elephant in the room for Gosda is whether she’ll actually get to coach the Sabers through the 2021 season, with the pandemic leaving the future uncertain for numerous IHSA sports. The 2021 girls’ soccer season in Illinois is supposed to last from May 3 through June 26 right now.
New fall contact days — created in response to the pandemic and the IHSA’s 2020-21 calendar revisions — began Monday for girls’ soccer teams around the state. They last through the end of October and offer Gosda up to 20 days to make an initial impact on her roster.
“Our season is not until May, so it really feels like a long time away,” Gosda said. “(Contact days are) a great way to get the girls together. The season was cut short last year, so we’ll get touches on the ball and play some of those fun games you don’t always get to play in the season.”