A new era begins for UNCG men's soccer on Tuesday
GREENSBORO, N.C. - At 7 a.m. Tuesday, a new era in UNCG men's soccer officially began.
Justin Maullin became the interim head coach of the Spartan men's soccer program back on Jan. 8, two days after the retirement of Michael Parker – the winningest coach in Division I soccer.
Since then, there had been spring practices and scrimmages, recruiting trips and other assorted head coaching duties. But on Tuesday, the first official in-season practice of a new era took place.
Maullin has had a tough role before. He was brought on board in 2005 to replace Darren Powell – longtime assistant coach to Parker who had played for the program in its glory days. Maullin came from UCF, where he had been a successful assistant coach for six seasons. The Golden Knights had won 10 or more matches in five of his six seasons, making the NCAA tournament in each of the last three.
Since Maullin came to UNCG, however, the Spartans have gone to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 three times – 2005, 2006 and 2008. While there were five national championships in the Division III era under Parker and the late Mike Berticelli, make no mistake in that Maullin has been at UNCG for some serious success, too.
UNCG interim head coach Justin Maullin talks after the first session of preseason practice.
Last season was a disappointment. A late season surge in 2008 that carried the Spartans to the SoCon tourney title and wins over Duke and Loyola in the NCAA tourney saved what looked like a difficult season. The taste of being sub-.500 for the first time since the late 1970's was washed away a little in making it to the third round if the NCAAs and nearly to the quarterfinals if not for a penalty kicks decision at USF.
Just six wins in 2010 were difficult for everyone, including Maullin. It was a rollercoaster of a year. The Spartans got into the SoCon tournament on the final day, but couldn't come up with another bit of the late season magic that had turned the year before into a palatable success.
On Tuesday, Scott Brittsan, entering his 13th season as an assistant coach for the Spartans, was alongside Maullin just as he has been for the last five years.
But for the first time since 1984, the familiar English accent that was Parker's wasn't heard on the North practice field. It was Maullin's slightly different South African accent that called out instructions – not that he hadn't before. Parker's assistants always had their roles in practices and that was usually very active. Brittsan's still will be, as will other members of the coaching staff – that was clear on Tuesday.
This was different on Tuesday, although Maullin wasn't going to say it. The tradition was too strong in his mind, the respect for it too great.