by Tom Utescher
The Chestnut Hill College and Mount St. Joseph Academy booters will both be under new management when their pre-season training begins later this month.
The incoming head coach for the Chestnut Hill College Griffins, Sandy Dickson, brings a distinguished record as longtime skipper of another NCAA Division II program, Bloomsburg University, and the new Mount mentor is Cathleen Culp, a former assistant at Christopher Dock High School who has coached club teams at many places in the U.S. and abroad.
When Sandy Dickson left her position at Bloomsburg back in May, Chestnut Hill College had a highly successful women’s soccer coach of its own. Five seasons into his tenure, Seamus O’Connor had the Griffins on the upswing, guiding them to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference tournament in each of the last two years and picking up the CACC’s Coach of the Year Award in 2009. His accomplishments attracted the attention of Temple University, who snapped him up and named him an assistant coach for its NCAA Division I program.
Before that, Dickson had signed on as CHC’s Director of Fitness and Recreation. She would preside over the college’s new fitness center, which will open at the end of the summer. When O’Connor departed, Chestnut Hill found itself looking for a fall team coach at a very late stage, and was fortunate to already have Dickson on the staff in another role. A search committee interviewed other prospects, but she was clearly the best candidate.
A New Jersey native, Dickson remained in the Garden State to play collegiate soccer for Rutgers University, where she graduated in 1994. Positioned in the midfield, she helped the Scarlet Knights win three Eastern College Athletic Conference championships and rise as high as 13th in the NCAA Division I poll.
She started her college coaching career as an assistant at Bloomsburg, where she earned a master’s degree in exercise science. After three years on the staff she was named head coach, and piloted the program from 1998 to 2010. In her third season with the Huskies they reached the NCAA quarterfinals, and last fall they also earned a spot in the NCAA’s, winning their opening-round match.
Within the Pa. State Athletic Conference (PSAC), Dickson’s teams qualified for the postseason tournament 10 times and won the conference championship twice.
Culp, the new leader at Mount St. Joe’s, grew up in the mountains of western Virginia and played club soccer at Penn State before the Nittany Lions established an intercollegiate program. She was a midfielder there, but also played goalie for some outside club teams.
She graduated in 1985 and now has two grown children, including a son who played soccer at Kutztown University.
Her husband is a Navy man, and that meant a lot of moving around for Culp, who coached boys and girls club travel teams in Virginia Beach and in Connecticut. The family even lived in Portugal for a time, and Culp guided some soccer teams at the American School in Lisbon while she was there.
Moving to the Philadelphia area in 2005, she began to train players belonging to Glenside’s Hunter Soccer Club, in addition to taking on the role of assistant coach at Christopher Dock. Recently, she met with a number of the Mount St. Joseph players while the captains were conducting some informal summer workouts.
“I was impressed with the girls; they seem to be self-motivated,” she remarked. “I asked all of the seniors to take on a leadership role, even if it didn’t come naturally at first, and they responded in a very positive way.”
Returning as JV coach and a varsity assistant will be Erica Toennies, a former Mount player herself.
“I’m not tied to a particular style or system,” Culp said. “My approach is that you evaluate the players you have and then you use a formation that makes the best use of their abilities. I hope my passion for the game comes through to the girls, and that it will carry over to the way we perform on the field.”