Madeline Buckley hired as new head women’s soccer coach


Photo by Gracie Ellsworth ’22

Lily Denehy, Managing Editor

After their most successful season in recent memory, former Macalester women’s soccer head coach Krystle Seidel left the team to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio. The Athletic Department launched into a search for her replacement, and on Dec. 16, they announced that their hiring committee chose Madeline Buckley as the new head coach.

Buckley’s resume speaks for itself. A National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III National Champion at William Smith College in New York; assistant coach at Wheelock College, Tufts University and Bowdoin College; and winner of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, Buckley has lived and breathed Division III women’s soccer for the past ten years. She felt this was the right time to take on a head coaching position.

“I was an assistant coach for seven years and was really ready to become a head coach,” Buckley said. “I was looking for an opportunity to coach at the same level that I was coaching as an assistant coach, since I really value the DIII experience.”

Buckley said she did not initially want to look in this area, but felt immediately drawn to Macalester because of its high academic standards and competitive athletics. Her hope is to help her players succeed in both these aspects, and, of course, to win.

Much of Macalester’s work in athletics over the past three years has centered on rebuilding an athletics program that can contend for championships in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Director of Athletics Donnie Brooks has discussed his goal of changing the Macalester athletic culture to one of winning, and other new coaches share Buckley’s drive to make that happen.

Donnie [Brooks] and the Department of Athletics is really modeling, like, ‘we want to win,’” Buckley said. “It’s so fun to be a part of a culture that just wants to win, but doesn’t do it at the [cost] of a student’s experience at Macalester.

“We can have it all. We can have students who excel in the classroom and the theater and do their honors projects and who play at a high level of soccer,” she continued.

Incoming women’s soccer captains Lucy Grochulska ’23 and Sarah Hamilton ’23 agreed. Grochulska said part of the reason she liked Buckley during the interview process was Buckley’s commitment to the student-athlete experience. For Hamilton, that means honoring her involvement in the psychology department’s eye tracking lab, her commitment to her job as a writing tutor and, of course, her passion for soccer.

Ultimately, Buckley, Grochulska and Hamilton all want to win. All three women believe the team can make it to the MIAC playoffs next year. Buckley and the captains hope to see the team in the MIAC championship game. They even are dreaming of a berth in the NCAA playoffs, which feature the top-64 Division III teams from across the country.

“I want to be a strong contender in the MIAC and this team truly believes that we are,” Buckley said. “So I’m hopping on board and, you know, end goal is to be national champions and to add to the history of our program… we just have to figure out how to get there.”

“We want to be at the top of the table,” Grochulska said. “We want to be in playoffs, [we] want to be winning the conference and getting a shot at a national tournament. That’s just everyone’s mentality where we’re ready for the next thing. We don’t want to be mediocre.”

Though their records are on the losing side in recent years, Macalester’s women’s soccer program has an impressive history. In 1998 and 1999 they made the NCAA Division III championship game, winning the national championship in 1998. Between 1989-2010, the women’s soccer team appeared in the NCAA tournament 15 times. Notably, between 2004-2006, Macalester had a 43-game streak without a loss.

Both last spring and this year, though, Seidel and assistant coach Tori Burnett turned the team into a force to be reckoned with. Despite a rough 2019 season, Seidel and Burnett led the team to a 1-1-1 record in the shortened spring 2021 season. Last fall, the Scots earned their best record, 10-6-2, since 2015 with Seidel at the helm. Buckley wants to hop on board and push the team to win new championships and records. She will also be hiring a new assistant, replacing Burnett who has coached at Macalester since 2018.

Off the field, Buckley is looking to increase the team’s community involvement and create a space which welcomes all interested players.

“I have to make sure that we have a space that allows for people to show up as their full identity, and that no one has to come to the door … and check one of their identities at the door,” Buckley said. “I want to make sure everyone feels like they can come into our program and be their full true self because that’s what I want as a coach, that’s what I’ve been able to have and I want that for each member of our program.”

After events over the past few years, including last semester’s sit-in and discussions about the athlete/non-athlete divide, there have been calls for Macalester’s athletics department, and the college as a whole, to create a more welcoming environment for non-athletes and marginalized students on campus. For women’s soccer, that means being involved across campus and making sure they are showing up to support, share and listen at campus events.

The women’s soccer team created a team calendar for non-athletic events on campus, including things like strategic planning input opportunities.

“It’s really easy to think of athletics as an isolated community that just goes to athletic events and doesn’t really go beyond,” Hamilton said. “I was… making sure that the team knows what other events are going on, so that if another event like [the sit-in] happens, we’re represented, that we’re going, that we are involved, and that athletics is represented at those events.”

Buckley is jumping into all these aspects of athletics’ relationship with campus. According to Grochulska, she is already thinking about how the team’s culture can change, what their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) focus looks like and how this all fits in with their on-field goals.

“She wants to pick up with where we are, learn from us and learn how she can continue to take us where we want to be,” Grochulska said. “Our values and our hopes really lined up well … How are we going to get going with team culture? What is our DEI focus? How are we working on all of these things?”

Though the changing COVID-19 protocols have delayed offseason work, in just over 200 days, the Macalester Women’s Soccer team will play its first 2022 season game. They will look to improve on their 10 wins from last season and make it to the MIAC playoffs and championships. To do so, they will need a winning mentality.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve come into this program at this time where we’re on the brink of something great,” Buckley said. “It’s just a huge tribute to Krystle [Seidel] and Tori’s [Burnett] work over the past four years to build the program back into prominence.”

[email protected]