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Coach Julianne Sitch breaks barriers with top-ranked University of Chicago men's soccer team

Coach Julianne Sitch breaks barriers with University of Chicago men's soccer team
Coach Julianne Sitch breaks barriers with University of Chicago men's soccer team 03:01

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The University of Chicago Maroons men's soccer team is used to having success – but they have taken it to a new level this season.

They are ranked No. 1 in the country in Division III. And as CBS 2's Matt Zahn reported Thursday, they have a new head coach breaking some barriers.

"The main thing that has allowed us to have success this year is just our grittiness," said Maroons senior defender Richard Gillespie. "I think that Coach Sitch, from the very beginning, has really harped on us outworking the other opponent."

"Honestly, it's the competitiveness that Sitch kind of instilled in the team from the very beginning - and the first day of preseason kind of set the standard for us," added Maroons senior defensive midfielder Naz Kabbani.

Coach Sitch would be Julianne Sitch - a former Chicago Red Stars player and assistant coach - who took over as head coach of the U of C men's team in April. Sitch is one of two women coaching a men's team in Division III.

"It's really special. You know, I feel like very honored to be in this role and humbled by it," Sitch said. "But however, I think you know, back in my day, I watched a lot of men's pro soccer - because there wasn't a lot of females to look up to until really, The '99ers that we like to call them.

"For young women, if they don't see it, they don't believe it. They don't dream it. They don't go for after it. So I think this is just like really cool, again, like for young girls to get out there. If you see it, you can dream it, you can believe it, you can be it. So I think that that part is like really cool, just giving the next generation something to aspire to."

Sitch was previously an assistant for the University of Chicago women's soccer team - one of a number of women's coaching jobs she's held along the way. This is her first time leading a men's team, but to her, it's really not any different.

"They're just athletes. They want to be their best. They come out, they're competitive, they work hard," Sitch said. "You know, and that's been like my experience both on the men's and women's side – when I was here at UChicago, to UIC, to the Red Stars and coaching in the NWSL. Again, they want to be at their best. They're eager. They're humble. They're hungry. They want to go after more."

And clearly, whatever Sitch is doing is working. The Maroons are unbeaten, ranked No. 1 in the country in Division III, and confident they have what it takes to make a deep postseason run.

"I definitely think we do," Gillespie said. "I think that the biggest thing we need to focus on is mitigating complacency," Gillespie said. "Any team can beat any team on any given day. But as long as we keep a focused mindset and come out ready to battle every single game, I think we really will have a chance to make it all the way."

"I think that's going to be very difficult," Kabbani added. "But I think just sticking to our principles, and making sure we keep on having a Sitch mindset, really."

The Sitch mindset is clearly working for the Maroons.

Meanwhile, history will be made on Friday, when Sitch and the University of Chicago will play New York University, who is coached by Kim Wyant. It is believed that it will be the first NCAA men's soccer game with both teams coached by women. 

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