Successful soccer assistant leaves Stanford for the pros

Jay Cooney, an assistant coach on Stanford's 2011 NCAA champion and four other Cardinal College Cup teams, is leaving for a position as goalkeeper coach for Sky Blue FC of the National Women's Soccer League.

Cooney spent 11 seasons coaching goalkeepers at Stanford – all under Paul Ratcliffe -- as the program maintained a level of remarkable success.

Since 2003, Stanford has gone 194-43-21 (.793), won four Pac-12 championships, and reached three NCAA finals. And just as remarkable were these Stanford achievements during that span:

• 73-match home unbeaten streak (2008-13).

• 64-match regular-season unbeaten streak (2008-12).

• 51-match home winning streak (2008-12).

• 44-match conference winning streak (2008-13).

• 25-match winning streak (twice: 2009, 2011-12).

• 21-match home NCAA tournament winning streak (2008-present).

• 8 consecutive NCAA Sweet Sixteens (2006-present).

"The 11 years here have been amazing," Cooney said. "It was magic sometimes."

Under Cooney, every starting Stanford goalkeeper held opponents under 1.00 goals per game for a season.

Five of the six regular starting goalkeepers during his tenure – Nicole Barnhart, Alex Gamble, Erica Holland, Kira Maker and Emily Oliver - are among the top 10 on Stanford's all-time career shutout list.

The exception is U.S. under-20 national team keeper Jane Campbell, who just completed her freshman year with six shutouts.

"He's a fantastic coach and, even more importantly, a fantastic person," Ratcliffe said. "He's done so much for Stanford soccer to make it one of the best programs in the country."

The level of excellence is illustrated best by having two of Cooney's goalkeepers ranked among the top five, and three in the top 10, in NCAA Division I history in career goals-against average: Oliver (0.36) is third, Barnhart (0.45) is fifth, and Holland is ninth (0.47).

Stanford also has been ranked among the NCAA leaders in GAA: It was No. 1 in 2004 (0.43), No. 2 in 2008 (0.32) and 2011 (0.34), No. 3 in 2010 (0.45), No. 9 in 2012 (0.61), and No. 10 in 2009 (0.57).

"Stanford has had a tradition of great goalkeeping and Jay has kept that tradition alive," Ratcliffe said. "He's emerged as one of the best goalkeeping coaches there is."

Cooney sees himself as a teacher as much as a coach, and never coached any of his Stanford goalkeepers in the same way.

Cooney developed training plans that took into account the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.

To prepare for Oliver, who arrived in 2010 with a fearless nature and aggressive style, Cooney studied Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who played with a similar style.

"I had never coached a goalkeeper like Emily," Cooney said. "I wasn't going to coach her the same way I would coach, say, Nicole Barnhart."

Oliver went on to earn All-America honors, make three College Cup all-tournament teams, be named the 2011 College Cup Defensive MVP, and set the school record for GAA.

Barnhart, who played under Cooney in 2003 and 2004 and with the Bay Area-based FC Gold Pride of Women's Professional Soccer in 2010, has been a fixture on the U.S. national team since 2004 and remains a Stanford volunteer assistant coach.

A native of Wellesley, Mass., Cooney was drawn to the Bay Area in 2001 to coach with the San Jose CyberRays of the upstart Women's United Soccer Association. Cooney helped the CyberRays win the 2001 WUSA title, and won another pro crown with the Gold Pride.

Now, Cooney joins his third women's pro league, with the Piscataway, N.J.-based Sky Blue, which includes three former Stanford players – Kelley O'Hara, Camille Levin and Madeleine Thompson. The head coach and technical director is Jim Gabarra, a U.S. national team player from 1986-89.

"I want to see women's pro soccer work in this country," Cooney said.

He sees his efforts as a continuation to those brought forth by his mother, Marge, who helped create a female youth program through the Wellesley United Soccer Club.

Whereas Marge would start a U-8 league, Jay felt his work at essentially the U-22 level and beyond is an extension of his mother's efforts and a tribute as well.

"I feel like I'm carrying on her torch and possibly her legacy," Cooney said. "And that's very important to me."

— David Kiefer/Stanford Athletics


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