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Dean Ward has announced his resignation as the Lenoir-Rhyne Women’s Soccer Head Coach to accept the same role at Xavier University.
In his two years at the helm, Ward brought the program to unprecedented heights. In his two seasons, the Bears were a perfect 20-0-2 in SAC play with back-to-back regular season championships. The Bears also claimed the 2023 SAC Tournament title. In 2023, Ward and his staff were recognized as the United Soccer Coaches’ Southeast Region’s Coaching Staff of the Year as he guided LR to a 17-1-5 mark.
The 2023 Bears advanced to the National Quarterfinal and secured an NCAA Regional Championship with a 4-2 win over Catawba in the Regional Final. The Bears finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation and lost just once, a 5-4 defeat in the National Quarterfinal that saw LR erase a 4-0 deficit and tie the game at four.
In total, Ward finished with a 29-5-8 record and consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Ward won two straight SAC Coach of the Year honors on top of the Regional Coach of the Year.
Ward coached Elin Hansson to back-to-back SAC Offensive Player of the Year accolades and Hansson was named the Regional Player of the Year this season. Ria Acton also earned SAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2023. Acton and Hansson were named First Team All-Americans in December, the first duo to be named First Teamers in program history. Nine players were named All-Region in Ward’s two-year tenure.
Off the field, Louise Berg was named the SAC Women’s Soccer Scholar Athlete of the Year in each of the past two seasons.
“It has been an honor to lead the Lenoir-Rhyne University Women’s Soccer program and I am very proud of our accomplishments on and off the field during my time in Hickory,” said Ward. “I want to express my gratitude to Vice President for Athletics Kim Pate for providing the opportunity to coach at LR and I will always look back at my time in the program with fondness. A special thanks goes to the student-athletes I had the privilege of coaching. I am incredibly proud of them individually and collectively as a group. The relationships are what makes this program so special and I am grateful to have been a part of the unique environment, including our incredible support staff. I look forward to seeing the program and athletic department continue to thrive.”
“Coach Ward has done an outstanding job leading our women’s soccer program over the past two seasons and I wish him the best of luck in his future,” said Pate. “I want to personally thank Dean for how he invested in our student-athletes and helped develop them both on and off the field. Although his time at LR was short, his impact was significant and he has positioned the program for continued future success.”
A national search for Ward’s replacement will begin immediately.