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Joanna Fennema has been named the 10th head coach of the Lenoir-Rhyne women's soccer program.
Joanna Fennema has been named the 10th head coach of the Lenoir-Rhyne women's soccer program.
graphic courtesy of Lenoir-Rhyne Athletics

Lenoir-Rhyne Hires Fennema To Take Over Women’s Soccer

Vice President for Athletics Kim Pate has announced the hiring of Joanna Fennema as the 10th women’s soccer head coach in program history. Fennema, a standout player at the University of North Carolina, comes to Hickory after a highly successful three-year run as the assistant coach at Columbus St.
“I am thrilled to welcome Joanna Fennema to the Lenoir-Rhyne family,” said Pate. “Her accomplishments as a player and coach made her a perfect choice to lead our nationally competitive women’s soccer program. Coach Fennema has developed strong recruiting ties in this area and understands the high level of competition within our region. With her drive, passion, and extensive knowledge of the game, the program is positioned to continue its success both on and off the field.”

“It is with sincere appreciation and humility that I thank Kim Pate, the search committee and the athletic department for giving me the opportunity to lead Lenoir-Rhyne’s esteemed women’s soccer program,” said Fennema. “As a native North Carolinian and soccer fan, I have admired from afar the exceptional quality of both the program and the players. It is very clear to me that we share the same goals of continuing to elevate ourselves as a team and as people. I would also like to thank Jay Entlich and the wonderful players at Columbus St. for preparing me for this exciting new opportunity.”

While with the Cougars, Fennema helped Columbus St. to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a Regional Championship in 2022 as they entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. That season, Fennema was part of the United Soccer Coaches’ Southeast Regional Coaching Staff of the Year as the team went 19-3-2. She helped the program to a pair of Peach Belt regular season championships and a PBC Tournament title this past fall. Under her guidance, 30 players went on to be named All-Conference, seven have been named All-Americans, five have earned Scholar-All Americans and she coached the 2022 Elite 90 award winner. In total, Columbus St. was 53-10-5 in her three seasons on the sidelines.

Prior to her time in Columbus St., Fennema was drafted in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) by the Boston Breakers before making her way over to the Orlando Pride. It was there she appeared in 19 matches, scoring one goal with two assists before retiring from the top league in the United States due to an injury.

From 2013-2017 Fennema spent her collegiate years playing for one of the best programs in the nation, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. In total she appeared in 84 matches, scoring 14 goals while recording 17 assists. During her time with the Tar Heels, she helped them secure an NCAA Tournament berth in each of her five years, including an Elite Eight run in 2013 and two Sweet 16 appearances.

Throughout her collegiate years, Jo was a three-time All-ACC selection while also being chosen to the NSCAA All-Southeast Region team. She was also named Team Captain as a senior and was twice named to the All-ACC Tournament Team. In addition to her on-field accolades, Fennema was also a star in the classroom twice making the All-ACC Academic Team on top of making the All-ACC Honor Roll four times and earning the UNC Athletic Director’s Scholar-Athlete Award in 2017.

Joanna has spent a handful of years involved with the U.S. National Teams, beginning back in 2009 when she played with the U.S. U15 WNT. In 2010, she was promoted to the U17 National Team and was a member of the squad that won the 2010 Nordic Cup championship. Fennema continued her U17 national team play in 2012 where the team won the CONCACAF championship in Guatemala before then playing in the World Cup in Azerbaijan. She wrapped up her WNT play in 2014 when she was a member of the U.S. U20 National Team player pool, before being one of the final cuts when the team was taken down to 21 players for the 2014 World Cup.

Fennema graduated with a degree in exercise sport science from UNC.

What others are saying about Joanna Fennema
“This is a great hire for Lenoir-Rhyne University. Joanna is a passionate, driven and hardworking young coach. She had a tremendous playing career and has competed at the highest level of collegiate athletics. She has been surrounded by some of the most competitive players and coaches in NCAA Soccer and she knows what it takes to be successful. I know LR women’s soccer is in great hands and I am very excited to watch the program grow under Joanna’s guidance.”

– Gary Higgins ’09, head coach East Carolina, Lenoir-Rhyne head coach 2015-21

“I am extremely excited for Coach Joanna to continue her coaching journey as the next Head coach at Lenoir Rhyne. She is 100 percent ready to take the next step in her coaching pathway. LR has had a history of hiring extremely talented coaches and they have continued in their selection process of hiring an amazing coach who will continue to bring excellence to an amazing program that has had so much success on and off the field. We know Coach Jo will continue to grow the players at LR as did the previous coaching staffs.”

– Jay Entlich, head coach Columbus St.