Virginia Coach April Heinrichs' reign at the helm of the Virginia women's soccer program came to an end yesterday when she signed a four-year contract to coach the U.S. women's national team.
Heinrichs replaces Tony DiCicco, who stepped down after guiding the U.S. team to the 1999 World Cup championship. She was not thought to be a top candidate for the job.
Heinrichs told The Cavalier Daily Nov. 9 that she wanted to stay at Virginia. But at yesterday's press conference in New York, Heinrichs said she could not have anticipated she would be offered the job and simply was presented with an opportunity she could not pass up.
"When Tony resigned, I thought that maybe in five years I would have the opportunity to interview for the position," Heinrichs said in a press release. "But I tried to ... have the opportunity to get a face-to-face interview and hope that [U.S. Soccer] would remember me in the future as a top candidate."
Heinrichs compiled a 52-27-7 record and coached the Cavs to the NCAA Tournament in each of her four years at Virginia. This season, the Cavaliers (13-9-0) advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 and finished with a No. 16 national ranking.
Heinrichs gathered as many Virginia players as she could Monday night to inform them of her decision, but many had already heard the news from various media leaks. The players said they had mixed emotions when they heard the news.
"We're all devastated because we're losing a great coach," fifth-year forward Jill Maxwell said. "But we're also excited for her because it's a great opportunity for her. She's going to be a tough person to replace."
Heinrichs, the only female member of the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame, is a former U.S. team captain and helped win the inaugural Women's World Cup title in 1991. She served as an assistant with the national team during the 1995 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics and has coached the Under-16 national team since 1997.
Her new post with the national team, which also gives her the responsibility of overseeing the three junior national teams, will require all of that coaching acumen. With the Sydney Olympics approaching this summer, the team is squabbling with U.S. Soccer Federation over salaries and recently boycotted an Australian tournament.