Women’s Soccer Head Coach Kate Seagroves Steps Down After 23-Year Tenure, Current and Former Players React

October 24, 2022

Coach+Kate+Seagroves%2C+Assistant+Coach+Shannon+Riley+on+HCC+Turf+Field.

HCC Athletics

Coach Kate Seagroves, Assistant Coach Shannon Riley on HCC Turf Field.

Women’s soccer head coach Katherine Seagroves announced Aug. 6 via Instagram that she was stepping down as head coach after an incredible 23-year run.

The announcement came as a surprise considering the women’s soccer team’s season started Aug. 23 with a scrimmage against Gallaudet. Regarding her decision, Seagroves said it was an extremely difficult decision after coaching for 23 years and enjoying a lot of success.

Sophomore midfielder Madison Dzubak said, “Coach Kate Seagroves’s decision to step down as head coach of the women’s soccer team was justified…concerning the cumulation of events and predicaments.” Dzubak went on to say she “was not surprised, but nevertheless disappointed” that the team would be without Kate for the season.

Jennifer Craven, who played forward under Seagroves from 2014-15, said she “was shocked” when Seagroves stepped down as head coach. She also said that Seagroves’s impact was immeasurable not only on the soccer team but all of athletics. Seagroves was more than a coach and formed friendships with players that will last a lifetime. Craven went on to say, “while HCC is losing the GOAT of coaching, Kate’s impact will last forever.”

Seagroves took the helm as head coach of the team in 1999, leading the program to an astounding seven national tournament appearances, nine regional championships, five district championships and two conference championships.

Director of Athletics and head coach of the men’s basketball team Mike Smelkinson said Seagroves “ran a highly respected women’s soccer program for over two decades at Howard Community College.”

When asked why she retired, Seagroves said, “it wasn’t really something I wanted to do, but there was a lot going on so I thought it was best to step down before the season so someone else could have full reign of the program.” Seagroves went on to say that she absolutely loves coaching and it is a dear passion of hers.

Prior to Seagroves taking over the women’s soccer team, the team operated as a club program for one year in 1999. Seagroves came from a Division I institution, so her expectations were quite high. When Seagroves held an information meeting only four students showed up, which she said “was an eye opening moment” for her. It took Seagroves a month to get 14 students to play.

Seagroves acknowledged “it was ugly the first 2 seasons,” but her third season was a complete turnaround. The program almost made it to the national tournament in 2002, Seagroves’s fourth year with the program. In Seagroves’s fifth year, the growth of women’s soccer caused the NJCAA to split between scholarship and non-scholarship. The women’s soccer team was non-scholarship and made it to the national tournament where they finished third in the nation. Seagroves’s biggest takeaway from building the program from the ground up is “with all new programs it takes a while to get it to a level to compete so stay patient, work hard and it will happen.”

Regarding her 23 years of coaching, Seagroves said, “when you’re coaching, you most likely need a psychology degree to get through it all sometimes.” Seagroves became a mom, teacher, coach and mentor to so many young people, and she “wouldn’t have it any other way.”

HCC Dragons’ Madison Dzubak (right) and Brookdale Community College Jersey Blues’ Milena Alves (left) (Dennis Yu)

Dzubak said Seagroves had “an enormous impact” on her as a student-athlete. From the start of her career at HCC, Seagroves prioritized academics first; soccer second. According to Dzubak, Seagroves “prided herself in [the] team accomplishing the highest GPA average out of all the athletics teams” and “ensured her team was thriving not only on the field but in the classroom.” Dzubak went on to say Seagroves “was (and still is) a role model to all of her players.”

Craven shared a similar sentiment, saying, “[Kate] made me believe in myself on and off the field.” Her and Seagroves’s relationship expands off the pitch as Jennifer considers her “the best coach but also a great friend who I’ll cherish forever.”

When asked what her favorite moment coaching the team was, Seagroves admitted it was tough given that she was “blessed with so many.” She has had many great players come through the program but having “two players in the NJCAA women’s soccer Hall of Fame is pretty amazing.” The two players Seagroves referred to are Lisa Bianchini and Niki Hall, who were enshrined in the NJCAA Women’s Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class of 2021-22. Seagroves went as far as to say “[Bianchini] and [Hall] were some of the best players to ever come through [the program].”

The biggest lesson Seagroves learned from her coaching tenure was “as long as you are out there enjoying yourself, that bleeds through the players, and success usually follows.” Seagroves also went on to say that there will always be a bad seed or two once in a while, but a coach cannot let that spread throughout the team. Keeping a positive mindset is important.

After Seagroves stepped down as head coach, long-time assistant coach Shannon Riley took over as interim head coach with Mark Winkel and former player Claudia Brush filling in as assistant coach.

Women’s soccer team photo on the turf field at Howard Community College (HCC Athletics Department)

The day prior the first practice of the season, the team was informed that Seagroves—affectionately known as Coach Kate—was stepping down. Dzubak said, “Coach Shannon, Mark, and Claudia have done their best to lead the team on short notice. However, in my opinion, it is a nearly impossible task to fill the void left by Coach Kate and her legacy.”

The team’s mindset during the beginning of the season can be described as “apprehensive.” Dzubak said, “for the returning players, we were especially apprehensive of how the team would be coached but were confident in Coach Shannon’s ability to be the head coach.” Dzubak added, “all of the newcomers’ prior interactions with Howard CC women’s soccer have been through Coach Kate; therefore, to lose that security for all players was difficult and unexpected.”

The women’s soccer team got off to a rough start to the season going 1-8, with five of the eight losses coming against ranked teams. However, following back-to-back wins against Hagerstown and Anne Arundel, it looks like the Dragons have started getting things back on track.

There is no telling what the future holds in store for Kate but, if one thing is for sure, it is that Seagroves’s legacy as a coach, mentor and friend will always be remembered.

“I love the game and hope that at some point I will find myself on the pitch again. I miss it and to be honest, feel I’m pretty damn good at it,” Seagroves said. “I didn’t really want to step down, but felt it was the right thing to do at the time.”

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