by Tom Utescher
Chestnut Hill College has filled two head coaching vacancies on its fall sports teams by staying in-house, elevating former assistant coaches to the lead role in their respective sports.
Julian Fernandez, a former midfielder for the Griffins who graduated in 2011, is now taking charge of the men’s soccer program after serving as an assistant coach during the 2014 season. The new men’s and women’s tennis mentor, Nate Geigle, came on board at Chestnut Hill last fall, when he became Associate Head Coach for the two CHC teams.
For the college’s junior and senior soccer players, Fernandez will be their third head coach. The tennis team, on the other hand, had enjoyed a long period of stability under Geigle’s predecessor, Albert Stroble.
Stroble first arrived at Chestnut Hill in the 2006-2007 academic year. Consolidating the men’s and women’s coaching responsibilities, he provided administrative consistency for CHC racquet athletes. Stroble’s most notable achievement was leading the program in a very smooth and successful transition from NCAA Division III standing to Division II status.
Division II schools are allowed to award scholarships specifically for athletics (Division III institutions may not), and with this recruiting incentive, along with others, Stroble was able to extend the college’s reach both in the U.S. and abroad.
At the end of the 2015 spring season, the number one players for the Griffin men’s and women’s teams hailed from Brazil and France, respectively. Over the past half-dozen years, Stroble attracted players from England, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Belarus, Columbia, and Australia.
His men’s teams have appeared in both the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference finals and the NCAA East Regional Tournament for each of the last three seasons. For five years in a row, the Chestnut Hill women have reached the CACC final four, making the finals twice. They also performed in the NCAA East Regionals for the last four seasons. Numerous male and female Griffins earned individual all-star honors during Stroble’s tenure.
CHC’s new skipper, Geigle, was the tennis team captain at Archmere Academy outside of Wilmington. He went on to play club tennis at Davidson College (’10), where he also served as a hitting partner for some of the school’s Division I intercollegiate players.
Pursuing graduate studies at West Chester University in the 2010-2011 academic year, he still had playing eligibility in the NCAA, and he performed at first singles and first doubles for the Division II Golden Rams.
Geigle had already dipped his feet in the coaching pool back in high school, working with a youth developmental program in inner-city Wilmington and also providing instruction at some USTA clinics. While in college, he worked at summer tennis camps, and later he served as a volunteer assistant coach at West Chester in the spring of 2014, just prior to joining the staff at Chestnut Hill.
On the men’s soccer pitch, Fernandez follows Casey Huckel, who headed the program for just one season. Under his guidance in 2014, the Griffins finished 8-10-1 overall, and had a 7-4-1 record within the CACC that earned them an appearance in the conference tournament.
The Griffin men had played under Penn Charter graduate Keith Cappo from 2010-13. Cappo graduated from Penn Charter in 1999 and became a four-year starter for Catholic University. He first arrived at Chestnut Hill as an assistant coach in 2008, and he left after the 2013 season to become a Division I assistant coach for the women’s team at Temple University. There, he works under head coach Seamus O’Connor, a former Director of Soccer at CHC.
Cappo’s former protégé, Fernandez, began his collegiate career in his home state of New Jersey, then transferred from Rutgers University – Camden to Chestnut Hill College after his freshman year. At CHC he was a three-year starter and served as team captain as a senior.
He was an assistant coach at Cardinal O’Hara High School in 2012 and head coach at Downingtown East High School the following season. He returned to Chestnut Hill the following fall to assist Huckel. He also has extensive club coaching experience, working with Atlantic Soccer Factory, Spirit United, and Continental Football Club.