Last Wednesday, Mike Babst was announced as the new head coach of the men’s soccer team. Babst joins the Maroons from Northwestern, which has finished first in the Big Ten regular season standings for the last two seasons. Last year, the Wildcats went on to the NCAA DI Tournament, losing to No. 10 Louisville.
Before coaching in Evanston, Babst served as an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina. He then spent only one season at Northwestern, but he made his mark. With Babst coaching the goalkeepers, Wildcat second-year Tyler Miller made First Team All–Big Ten as a keeper.
“[I believe I bring] an ability to identify the potential in each student-athlete and to challenge them to convert that potential into a valuable role on the field,” Babst said.
Chicago hasn’t achieved as much as they’ve hoped in recent years, finishing sixth in the UAA last season and seventh both of the two years before that. However, the future seems bright; all but two players from this year’s squad will be returning in the fall.
“Last year we did a lot of things well. We played hard and were on the wrong end of some close games,” second-year captain Kyle Kurfirst said. “Unfortunately we missed the postseason, which is always disappointing, but we have a great foundation with some strong talent, and I think we can build a formidable team moving forward.”
The Maroons, who finished 8–4–5 last season, are hoping Babst can help round out the team’s rough edges.
“One aspect we can focus on improving is our performance late in games,” Kurfirst said. “We gave up some tough goals in the closing minutes and in overtime [last season], which resulted in some frustrating losses and ties. If we were able to close out some of those games, it’s a different season.”
Babst has his eyes set on the prize.
“Our goal is to compete for a UAA title every year,” Babst said. “If we can be right at the top of the league every year, then I believe we will have the potential to do something special at the national level.”
Assistant coach Michael Madero was the interim coach during the search for the new head coach. He will begin his eighth season with Chicago next season, now under the rookie head coach Babst.
“I think Coach Babst has a great knowledge for the game, and his leadership will be key for us to mature as a team,” Kurfirst said. “He brings in a new perspective and may be the catalyst our team needs to get over the hump and get back to the postseason. I think some of the focus will be placed on creating an even stronger team culture and making sure everyone is on the same page.”
Babst graduated from Boston College, where he played goalkeeper, in 1999, and also has a law degree from Pittsburgh. These dual degrees go hand-in-hand with his coaching style: he is focused on both elements to the title “student-athlete.”
“[I want to coach at Chicago] to be a head coach at one of the world’s top universities and to have the opportunity to lead a team of talented and well-rounded student-athletes has been my goal since I began coaching,” he said.