Hamline Women's Soccer Coach Leading Team as Baby's Due Date Approaches

Hamline women's soccer coach Emily Cripe on the sideline during her team's nonconference win over Martin Luther Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Courtesy of Dave Wright/Hamline Athletic Department
Hamline women's soccer coach Emily Cripe on the sideline during her team's nonconference win over Martin Luther Wednesday afternoon.

September 28, 2017 09:14 PM

When Emily Cripe interviewed for the head women's soccer coaching job at Hamline last spring, she discussed her vision for the program, and the attributes the former Cretin-Derham Hall standout felt she brought to the position.

She discussed her experience as a former Division I college player at Seton Hall, and her time as an assistant coach at two other MIAC schools. Not to mention her experience the past two years working for college coaching legend Anson Dorrance and his powerhouse program at North Carolina.

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And something else: Cripe and her husband were expecting their first child, which meant she'd be coaching her first season with a baby due before it ended.

"It's definitely something I talked to (athletic director) Jason (Verdugo) about," said Cripe, who is now 36 1/2 weeks along. "And he was wonderfully supportive. He answered all my questions in just the right way. I knew this would be a great spot for me."

As things have turned out so far, Cripe has been a great fit for Hamline as well.

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Building off the foundation left by former head coach Ted Zingman, who departed after 10 seasons to take over as the head coach at Dickinson (Pennsylvania) University this past offseason, the new coach already has the Pipers off to a 6-3-1 start following Wednesday afternoon's 7-0 nonconference victory over Martin Luther.

That includes the program's first-ever victory over MIAC rival Macalester on Sept. 12, and a 1-0 win at St. Thomas on Sept. 20 when the Tommies were ranked No. 21 nationally in Division III.

"I could not be more impressed by her than I already am," Verdugo said. "What she's done in a short period of time with this program has been incredible. She had a good foundation. Ted did a great job for us, making the conference playoffs for the first time last year. But she's come in and been able to build on that.

"And the energy she's continued to bring, even while being more than eight months pregnant, has been nothing short of amazing."

The fact that Cripe and her husband, a consultant, were expecting their first child was a big factor in their desire to return to the Twin Cities.

"It's the first grandchild on both sides of our family, and we knew we had so much support here from friends and family," said Cripe, who served as a performance analyst at North Carolina, working with analytics. "Then when the Hamline job opened up, it was perfect timing. These kind of jobs are few and far between. This one hadn't opened up in 10 years. And when they do, it's incredibly competitive. 

"So it was an opportunity I had to go for when I had the chance."

But it did mean she'd be over eight months into her pregnancy during the heart of her first season as a college head coach.

"People have told me I look like I'm going to pop out there," she said. "But I'm feeling good so far."

The baby, whom she and her husband have nicknamed 'Poppy' as they wait to find out if they are having a boy or girl, is due Oct. 23.

But Cripe said, laughing, "I don't think we're going to make it that far. I'd put money down on this baby coming early.

"We had an ultrasound, and it turns out the baby is in the 89th percentile when it comes to size. So we have a big baby, and a really strong one. I'm getting all sorts of kicks and jabs. There's definitely a lot of moving around.

"We have a pretty active baby, just like its Mom."

Cripe said the biggest challenge has been not being as physically involved with the game as she'd like to be.

"I certainly can't kick a soccer ball the way I'm used to doing," she said. "So that's been something I've had to adjust to."

Otherwise, though, she said things have gone smoothly, even if she does acknowledge feeling drained at times.

"I'm definitely more exhausted than I ever used to be," Cripe said. "I'm not sure if that's the new job and being in-season, being pregnant, or some combination of the two.

"I'm trying to take advantage of my sleep when I get it. But the season is always a grind. I'm grinding, the players are grinding. We're all out there giving it everything we have."

Junior forward Arendje Louter, the team's second-leading scorer, said Cripe has kept her intensity level high, even as she enters the final weeks of her pregnancy.

"At the beginning of the season, she was still pretty quick on her feet," Louter said. "She's become a little slower as the months have gone on, and she isn't standing around as much. But she's still as involved as ever. She hasn't stepped off the gas pedal at all."

Cripe is quick to credit the coaching staff she has in place. And her assistants are ready to take over when the big day finally comes.

"They're ready to rock," she said. "I have a great staff here and we have a plan in place. So hopefully we won't miss a beat when I do have to step away."

But, depending on how things go, Cripe hopes to be back in at least some fashion before season's end. Especially if her team makes the conference playoffs, which begin Oct. 31.

Heading into a home matchup with league-leading St. Olaf at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Hamline is tied with St. Thomas for third place in the MIAC standings. The top six teams make the conference postseason.

"We'll have to see how it goes," she said. "But if I'm healthy, and the baby's healthy, I'd like to be able to show up for practice or games for an hour or two each day. And weather permitting, my husband can hopefully bring the baby to the games.

"That way Poppy will be able to hear Mom hollering on the outside instead of from the inside."

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