Last week Athletic Director Chad Eisele announced that the school has hired a new Women’s Soccer coach, replacing the departed Paul Lawrence.
Lawrence, who left to coach at Florida Southern College, will be replaced by Chris Haught-Thompson.
In his official announcement of Haught-Thompson’s hiring, Eisele displayed his supreme confidence in the selection.
“Chris has strong ties to the Midwest Conference and knows what it takes to succeed at this level,” Eisele said.
Haught-Thompson, a Lake Forest College alum, has experience as an assistant coach at both Division I and Division III levels, spending three seasons as an assistant in the two Lake Forest soccer programs.
After helping with the Men’s team there for two years, Haught-Thompson assisted with both the Men’s and Women’s teams in his final year at Lake Forest, before continuing to his most recent position as the top assistant coach on the Virginia Military Institute’s Women’s Soccer team.
Haught-Thompson has managed to find success at every stop, winning three Midwest Conference titles and two MWC Tournament titles during his time at Lake Forest combined between the Men’s and Women’s squads he worked with.
In his last season at Lake Forest, Haught-Thompson helped the Women’s team race out to a 21-1 record, leading to Lake Forest hosting the NCAA tournament.
After the end of that season, Haught-Thompson spent two years as the top assistant coach on the Virginia Military Institute Women’s Soccer team.
Haught-Thompson explained that at the time of his arrival, the VMI Women’s Soccer team was a struggling “program in a tough league.”
Following his arrival, Haught-Thompson helped the VMI Keydets advance to the second round of their conference tournament in two straight years for just the second time in the program’s history.
Though he has found success at the Division I level, Haught-Thompson looks forward to returning to Division III Soccer.
“I am excited to return to my roots because I believe we can be successful” at Knox, Haught-Thompson said.
Haught-Thompson sees his experience at the Division I level as a great advantage, as he intends to bring what he has learned from “coaching against top players” with him to Knox.
“There will also be certain things about the tempo and pace of play that we can certainly emulate here,” he added.
Haught-Thompson is quick to highlight the fact that he also brings extensive experience in the Midwest conference with him to his new position.
“Being at Lake Forest College as a player and coach has allowed me to understand this conference inside and out,” Haught-Thompson said.
Eisele said that this hiring process was similar to the one that resulted in Lawrence’s hiring a few years ago, only that Knox was possibly able to choose from applicants with higher qualifications this time around due to the program’s recent success.
After more than 50 applications were reviewed, the final four candidates were eventually invited to make official visits to the Knox campus for interviews, meetings and a tour.
Haught-Thompson enjoyed his visit, explaining, “It was cool to be back at Knox in a different capacity. I had played there and coached there, but really never made it outside the sports center or the soccer field.”
This visit, however, was about more than just touring the sports facilities, as Haught-Thompson remarked that “everybody was welcoming and kind and really helped me get a feel for the community that exists” at Knox.
At the end of the visit, Haught-Thompson was able to meet with the current Women’s Soccer team and answer any questions they had for him.
Haught-Thompson came away from this meeting very impressed with the team, saying that “their desire to continue to grow as a program really encouraged me.”
The feeling of excitement after the meeting was mutual, as sophomore Jessica Petersen immediately felt that Haught-Thompson was a perfect fit for the team.
“His drive to succeed is what truly impressed me. Our team is very competitive and passionate for the game, I think Chris expressed that very well,” said Petersen.
Junior Kayla Brown agreed with this, saying that she believes “Coach Chris is more than ready to push us past the first round of the NCAAs.”
This, of course is the ultimate goal for the team, as they look to continue improving upon their previous two historic seasons.
Not only did he seem well prepared to help take the team to new heights on the field, but junior Kelsie Pos thinks that he also brings a lot more to the table.
“I like him because he understands what it’s like to be a student-athlete. He knows that we have to put school first but is still going to push us to be our best on the field,” said Pos.
Eisele saw many of these same characteristics in Haught-Thompson, saying that after the meeting he was confident that Haught-Thompson was the right choice given his “coaching style, familiarity with the league and his understanding of recruiting to a school like Knox.”
Haught-Thompson understands that he is coming into a program that has enjoyed historic success over the past two seasons, making it a bit different than when he started at VMI.
While that soccer program was in need of being largely reinvented and built from the very foundations, the Knox Women’s Soccer team is already a conference powerhouse.
Because of this significant difference, Coach Haught-Thompson’s goal for the upcoming years is “to continue building on the foundations that have been laid,” Haught-Thompson said.
Haught-Thompson knows that this can only happen through challenging the players in every aspect of the game.
After reaching such great heights recently, Haught-Thompson understands that the Knox Women’s Soccer team will be a target for their conference opponents next season.
“Everyone is going to give us their best game,” he said.
This means that even matches against less skilled teams will be difficult, as every opponent will be motivated to use a match against Knox as a statement game.
The schedule, he continued, will only get harder now that the program has established itself as an up-and-comer.
Haught-Thompson is confident that this group is fully capable of continuing its recent success, and challenged his new team, saying, “I fully believe we should be competing well in the conference tournament every year.”
With the strong track record Haught-Thompson brings to an already solid foundation, the Knox Women’s Soccer team should continue being a threat in both the Midwest conference and the national scene for years to come.