During the 2017 season, Graeme Millar will be watching his soccer players from the same Stevenson University sideline. But he won't be quite as familiar with this group.
Millar, who coached the Mustangs women's soccer team for the past 10 years, is the new men's soccer head coach at Stevenson. He took over the program when Andrew Bordelon left to become the assistant coach at Northern Illinois University after one season at Stevenson.
In addition to his new duties, Millar, 38, will still be involved with the Stevenson women's soccer program. At the same time Millar was named the men's head coach, he was also appointed as Stevenson's director of soccer. In that position, Millar will oversee the entire Stevenson soccer operation.
"Stevenson has given me a title change and a promotion, and now I can coach the men's team and work with both programs," said Millar, a native of Ayr, Scotland, and a 2005 graduate of Richard Stockton (N.J.). "This is a way to show how important soccer is on this campus. I can bring stability to the men's soccer team, which knows that they'll have a coach who will be here for much more than eight months to a year."
Millar will try to resurrect a Stevenson men's program that has endured five losing seasons during the past six years. After posting a 14-5-3 mark and reaching the Eastern College Athletic Conference South championship game during the 2010 campaign, Stevenson's only season above the .500 mark came in 2014, when the Mustangs went 10-8-2.
The 2016 Mustangs finished 3-13-3 overall and 2-6 in Middle Atlantic Conference play. Stevenson's top goal-scorer, midfielder Kevin Benitez, totaled three goals and one assist during his sophomore season. Millar understands the challenges that lie ahead.
"The two main challenges are recruiting and culture change," said Millar, who lives in Sykesville, Md. "My first challenge is getting the right players, who are good in the classroom as well as on the field. Right now, I'm doing everything I can to get Stevenson's name back out there. The second thing is changing the culture and expectations. The X's and O's and the tactics will come, but first we've got to set the program in the right direction by developing a positive culture."
For ideas on how the men's soccer program could get back on track, Millar reached out to the head coaches of several Stevenson men's programs that have flourished in recent years, including football's Ed Hottle, lacrosse's Paul Cantabene, and Erick Camodeca of the track and field program.
"When I was offered the job, I looked at what the other men's programs had done at Stevenson," Millar said. "The football team won the MAC in just its sixth year. It was about recruiting. They were going to the right areas and the right schools, and getting the right kids. We won a national championship in lacrosse, and the men's volleyball team went to the Final Four a couple of years ago. The men's track and field team is turning out All-Americans.
"Our soccer program is in a tough conference, but the other sports on the men's side are [having success]."
Despite the recent struggles of the men's soccer program, Millar is encouraged by the positive attitude that he sees among the returning players.
"Even though they've been through a lot, they still believe," Millar said. "There are guys here that can help build this new chapter. I want the next year to be about what we're going to do to set men's soccer apart from what it's been the past two years. There's that little spark there, and we've got to build on that."
Millar will be coaching a different team, but he doesn't see a big difference between men's soccer and the women's version of the game.
"The difference is the speed of play and the physicality," Millar said. "But the sport itself isn't different. We have the same rules, and the drills that we do aren't men-specific or women-specific."
The Stevenson women's program is in good shape. The Mustangs made postseason appearances eight times during Millar's 10-year tenure, which ended with a 118-72-23 record. He guided the 2010 and 2014 Mustangs to conference championships and NCAA Tournament berths. Stevenson also won the 2012 ECAC South title.
During Millar's final season as the women's soccer coach, the Mustangs finished with a 9-8-2 record and earned an invitation to the ECAC Tournament. Alayna Roesener, a defender who totaled two goals and three assists during her freshman season, was named first-team All-Middle Atlantic Conference. The Mustangs also welcome back rising sophomore forward Brianna Christie (six goals) and rising senior defender Brittney Celano (two goals, six assists).
The new Stevenson women's coach is Tati Korba, who led the Goucher College program from 2005-2016. Korba guided the 2012 Gophers to a 12-4-2 mark, which tied the program's single-season victory record. Korba coached the Gophers to a 39-40-9 record from 2012-2016, the best five-year stretch in the program's history.
"We wanted someone who was going to be a leader, a role model, and a mentor," Millar said. "In her interview, Tati said that she came here to win a national championship. She's the right person to take our girls' team to the next level, and get them back to the [NCAA] tournament."
Millar said he is excited about his new challenge.
"I'm reinvigorated by the chance to build again," Millar said. "I wanted to leave the women's program in a better place than I found it, and I have. I'm the third coach these guys have had in the last 16 months, and they need to know that I'm there for them and that I care."