LU soccer coach leads Cardinals into winning season

Freshly mowed grass, the early morning dew settling in, the net waving in the wind –– it’s called the pitch, a home away from home for Cardinal women’s soccer Nathan Kogut, who’s been playing soccer since 1996. What he didn’t know then was that he would lead Lamar University into the most successful season in the program’s history. nathan-kogut-womens-soccer-coach.

Through the years, Kogut played in various soccer clubs and worked as a coach throughout college. It wasn’t until he met the soccer coaching staff at the University of Alabama that he realized his true passion for coaching.

The problem Kogut now faced was getting into the industry.

“I just needed somebody to crack the door a little bit for me, and I had to do the rest.”

While watching from the sidelines, he decided it was time to get the ball rolling. Kogut got his start coaching soccer at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and never looked back.

The 20-year coaching veteran, who joined Lamar University Athletics in April of 2022, has an eye for talent. Though he’s remained even keeled all season, Kogut said it didn’t take him long to realize that “there was something there.”

It was the season opening game when the Cardinals took on the University of Houston in the LU Soccer Complex. Just 10 minutes in, the Cardinals scored, taking the lead.

“We played our opening game on a Sunday and Friday night's training session was the best practice we had all preseason,” Kogut said. “I remember going home and telling my family that I had hope for the team.”

The Cardinals shut out the Cougars, 3-0, in impressive fashion in front of the home crowd. It was during that moment that Kogut and his team knew they had something special. The women’s soccer team had moved the goalposts.

They went on to be ranked in the Midwest Region of the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 NCAADI Women rankings for six consecutive weeks. Three women –– Christine Kitaru, Miranda Urbizu and Nicole Panis –– even went on to win player of the week in the conference.

For the 2022 season, 16 players returned to LU, but Kogut welcomed 12 newcomers to the roster –– 11 transfers and two incoming freshmen.

“We have some good leaders and a lot of players on this team that can connect. We have some girls who, when I arrived in April, were unsure of themselves and now they are starting to take hold and understand their role and providing some leadership,” he said. “We have some maturity here and it’s a really fun group.”

Across 10 games, the Cardinals remained undefeated in the Southland Conference, but their winning streak recently came to an end when the team went head-to-head with Northwestern State, 2-0. Though the team suffered their first loss of the season, Kogut said the spirit in the locker room remains strong.

“We had a saying in the last couple of weeks and that’s ‘Don't eat the cheese,’ meaning don't buy your own hype. We set a standard and because of that, they knew they had let a team off the hook. Yes, there was a level of disappointment in our performance, but we performed in a vacuum really well. That’s a really big part of what we are building,” the coach said. “Coming off of a loss, they were humbled, but their interactions with each other was that comradery that we’ve built. They were dancing, interacting with each other and it was probably the loudest locker room that I’ve been in.”

Kogut said when he arrived at LU, his top priority was not only selecting the best roster for the season, but also the best coaching staff to go along with it. Joining him on the coaching staff are assistant coaches Colton Bryant and Kurt Albrecht along with Kelsey Brann, who serves as graduate assistant for the team.

“It was really important that I hired people who have been in my chair before and could help me work through a couple things. We are a young and hungry staff and we are embracing the fact that LU has a lot to offer.”

When it comes to measuring the success of the team for the remainder of the season, the head soccer coach said he has a bird’s-eye view looking into the future.

“The measurement of success with this roster is going to be a few years from now, when they start getting married and they have kids and you start getting the invitations and the announcements. They are 16- and 17-year-olds when you start that recruiting relationship and then they leave as young women, and then they're adults. That’s my favorite part of this,” he said, now smiling. “But this is a group that has shown that they can win a conference championship and it's a group that expects to win one. So, I would say that, as long as we're in the running for it, it's a successful roster.”

The Cardinals are set to go head-to-head with the Texas A&M Commerce Lions at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14 in Commerce, Texas.

Despite coming off of a loss, the winning coach can’t shake that can-do attitude.

“I’m always ready,” he said.