After years of instability, the University of Hawaii at Hilo has put a single face on its soccer programs. Lance Thompson figures to delegate a fair amount of authority as he oversees two teams, but he has every intention of working double duty as the man at the top.
The Vulcans ended their search for the school’s first director of soccer by luring Thompson away from Cal State San Bernardino, where he coached the men’s team last year.
Thompson said Thursday he planned on coaching both the Vulcans men and women this season. He last undertook the dual role in 2008 at Notre Dame de Namur, and the men’s team thrived, winning the Pacific West Conference and reaching the NCAA Division II postseason.
“The intention is to look to hire a staff to assist me with the women’s team and a separate coaching staff to help with the men’s team,” said Thompson, who has a 135-85-23 record in 13 seasons as a head coach.
“One of the first duties is working on how we’re going to set up the day-to-day infrastructure.”
In announcing the selection Thursday, UH-Hilo Athletic Director Dexter Irvin hailed his hire as a stabilizing force.
“We are very pleased to have found such a quality coach and individual,” Irvin said in a university release. “His experience in the PacWest and success in NCAA Division II will help elevate the standing of women’s and men’s soccer at UH-Hilo.
“I am very thankful for the great work of our committee and the process they followed. We had an outstanding pool of candidates for this time of year.”
Thompson, selected over more than 50 other candidates, coached the past four seasons in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, including three winning years at Cal Poly Pomona. In 2012, Cal State San Bernardino finished 5-5-7 and held opponents scoreless in eight matches.
He cited “personal reasons” as one of the main draws in bringing him to the islands. He and his wife, Jenn, have family on Oahu and own a home in Ewa Beach. The couple has three children.
Thompson replaced a pair of coaches who were in Hilo for one season. The men went 5-8-2, including 5-1-1 in its past seven matches under Ziggy Korytoski, while the women finished 5-12 with Unity Beddingfield at the helm. Both saw their contracts expire May 15 and pursued other jobs in what was just the latest in a long line of coaching upheaval for UH-Hilo.
From the programs’ inception in 2006 through 2012, the men’s team had five coaches and the women went through four — Cam Camarena led both in 2009.
Thompson, who by NCAA rule won’t be able to meet with his squads until practice starts Aug. 19, called it a fresh start for he and his players.
“I think every season brings a new challenge,” Thompson said. “Without a doubt, I’m going to be doing a lot of adapting. The student-athletes will have to do a lot of adapting, too. But you could say that about every season.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone.”
Korytoski drew the praise of many local soccer enthusiasts for his community-first and fan-friendly approach. Thompson said he planned to hit the ground running in that regard.
“Totally, I intend to be engaged with the community,” he said. “One of the first things I’ll do.”
Thompson’s first task is to get familiar with all of the names on his rosters, but one thing he likely won’t have to spend much time worrying about is a scouting report on the Vulcans’ first men’s opponent. As fate would have it, UH-Hilo opens against his former team Sept. 6 in Honolulu.
“That’s just life being funny,” he said.
It gets even funnier.
The Lady Vulcans open with the Travis Clarke-coached Coyotes on Sept 5. Clarke, who has been named the interim men’s coach at Cal State San Bernardino, can probably give Thompson a few pointers on life in Hilo. Clarke helped start the UH-Hilo women’s program in 2006 and coached for three seasons.
“I’ve talked to (Travis) a lot in the last six hours,” said Thompson, a 1995 graduate of Frostburg (Md.) and a native of Bel Air, Md.
Notes: Thompson’s other previous head coaching stops were at Holy Names University, where he was also the athletic director of the then-NAIA school, and NAIA Alliant International University. … Korytoski took a professional coaching job in Guatemala, while Beddingfield is coaching at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.