The Slippery Rock University women’s soccer team has created a culture with a few main principles, and the biggest one of those is a family-like atmosphere. The culture is a large reason as to why The Rock won the PSAC Championship in 2019. And now, Slippery Rock has added a new member to their family: new assistant coach Kohl Orner.
Orner joined the team in February and has now been on the job for two months. He takes over the job that was held by Mark Sappington. Orner has made his way back to the PSAC, where he played college soccer at Millersville.
“I really enjoyed my playing experience, but it wasn’t a path that was simple by any means,” Orner said.
Orner originally wasn’t even recruited out of high school and decided to go to UNC Charlotte. Eventually, though, he started to feel that it wasn’t the right fit for him and transferred to a school near home. That school, of course, being Millersville, and when he got there, he reached out to the men’s soccer coach and asked about the possibility of making the team as a walk-on.
And not only did Orner make the team, but he became the starting goalkeeper and was even named a team captain. He finished his career with a .811 save percentage and earned multiple accolades, including All-PSAC and All-Region.
“To have those experiences of being a team captain and being able to lead the team was huge and something that I never really expected to happen,” Orner said. “I just try to control the controllable and to earn All-PSAC and All-region was just icing on the cake for me.”
After earning his undergraduate degree, Orner attended Averett University where he earned his master’s degree. Orner started his coaching career at Lebanon Valley College as an assistant for the women’s soccer team, and this came after he developed a passion for it late in high school and throughout college.
“I was very lucky to have a mentor in Todd Hoffard, who most recently was the goalkeeper coach at Real Salt Lake, and I also had some coaches that I didn’t mesh with very well and I saw the side that I didn’t want to be as a coach,” Orner said. “And I kind of had this drive to be the coach that I never had.”
In 2017, he became the assistant coach for Averett men’s soccer team and then spent the past three years as the assistant at North Carolina Wesleyan for the women’s team. He heard about the job at Slippery Rock from Zac Kruger, who is the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Seton Hill. Orner is also friends with Sappington and when talking about this position, he realized how great of an opportunity it would be to come here and work under coach Jessica Giegucz.
“I have really enjoyed getting to work with [coach Giegucz] and she’s really just a great personality,” Orner said. “It’s really great to work under her and learn from her because she’s obviously had a lot of success here, but her and the girls create a really welcoming, family-oriented environment and it’s been great being a part of it.”
Orner will be in charge of working with the goalies and help with defense. Orner will work with a stacked goalie room that includes Emma Yoder, Jordan Barnhill, Alaina Mihalik and Brooke Lively. Yoder, who is a captain, will headline the goalie room this year, and her and Orner will look to mentor Barnhill, Mihalik and Lively.
“These ladies aren’t arrogant about the fact that they’re the reigning PSAC champions, they’re just so humble. They just put their heads down and get to work, and they always make each other laugh and have fun while competing at a high level,” Orner said.
Orner comes into Slippery Rock at a time where there will be two new classes of girls on the field. And the team has had a look at what they can be in the spring so far and in their training sessions. Orner feels that every girl on the team is very talented, and also believes that the culture here is something very rare and important.
“The transition has been pretty smooth, and he has a lot of the same qualities Mark had with some new perspectives, and he’s been a big help,” Giegucz said. “The girls are generally a very inviting group of people to begin with, but specifically when someone comes into the team with the family atmosphere, they are extremely accepting, and they’ve definitely embraced him.”
When The Rock returns to the field, they hope to continue to do what they’ve done in the past and to build off their 2019 championship. Orner hopes to be able to add to that, and under Giegucz’s direction he feels that the team can be the best in the conference again. But mostly, he is excited for the opportunity to be a part of the team and make his return to the PSAC.
“I’m just so excited to have this opportunity and I really can’t wait to see where we go this year,” Orner said.