Former captain of 1998 championship season inherits Leaney's legacy

By Mathew Starner

The stage was the 1998 NCAA Division III Championship game, and head coach John Leaney was on his way to winning his first national championship for Mac soccer. His junior captain, Kate Ryan Reiling, was a reigning All-American, eventual Final Four Offensive Player of the ’98 Tournament, eventual MIAC Player of the Year, eventual three-time All-American, and ultimately the eventual successor of John Leaney’s legacy at Macalester Soccer.”Kate was an outstanding captain and very competitive,” Leaney said. “I am delighted Kate is the new head coach. It will bring continuity to a successful program.”

Easy for Leaney to say. He’s not the one who has to replace the coach that won an NCAA title, 17 MIAC championships and earned 22 national playoff berths.

But there isn’t much better training than being one of his players during the prime of his coaching career. During Reiling’s days as a Scot, she and Leaney won the NCAA title and three MIAC championships, earning them with back to back to back 10-0 conference records.

But it’s not fair to say that her qualifications stem strictly from the guidance she got on the field during those four seasons between ’96-’00. Reiling got to stand on the other side of the white chalk when she came back as Leaney’s assistant from ’04-’07.

“I loved coming back when I was the assistant, seeing how the theater happens,” Reiling said. “I loved seeing what happens when you coach and how you think about it on a day to day basis and running practices, that was a great perspective.

“And taking over the program from him is a huge responsibility. I’m taking it over from somebody who is a legacy.”

For most, 299 wins would be enough to retire on. But Leaney still wants his helping hand in the team as long as it is wanted, focusing primarily on recruiting for the team. The active role on the team will also ideally help with the transition between coaches.

“A great testament to his commitment to the program is he’s actually done a great job continuing to recruit student athletes to come to Mac,” Reiling said. “I know this summer, we can spend more time thinking what that transition will officially look like.”

The biggest problem with the change is the last of the players Reiling knew as an assistant in ’07 are now graduating seniors, and Reiling is set with a blank slate with her 2010 roster.

“I think one of the daunting challenges is for everybody to shift over to my philosophy, my expectations, my coaching style in a way that they still feel a part of the program,” Reiling said. “We have a squad of 40 players, and that’s a lot of players to reach out and connect with before the spring semester is over.”

The switch isn’t going to be as drastic as may be expected, at least to Leaney, who is confident in both her future success on the field and with her new team.

“As an assistant she was always ahead of the game tactically,” he said. “Although she shares many of my beliefs about soccer she will bring in many new ideas as well. I think the team will love her and recognize her as a role model.