Panther soccer coach Dave Saward to step aside
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College announced this past Thursday that longtime men’s soccer coach David Saward will retire following the 2017 season after 33 years, a tenure that includes the program’s first NCAA Division III championship (2007) and a 347-119-47 record.
The college also announced that 2008 graduate Alex Elias, a member of that NCAA championship team who has served as the Panthers’ assistant coach for the past four seasons, will take over the team in January 2018.
Saward reflected back on his time leading the program, and looked forward.
“I have had a wonderful time working with all the students and my colleagues,” Saward said. “This feels like the right time to hand the reins over to a young man who I believe will take the program to new heights of success. Alex is a talented, astute coach who is highly motivated to move the program forward.”
Middlebury Director of Athletics Erin Quinn praised Saward.
“David has been a model coach at Middlebury,” Quinn said. “He is a master teacher to other coaches within Middlebury athletics and to soccer coaches across the country. He has been an exemplary mentor to generations of soccer players, as evidenced in part by the success of his former players as coaches, in addition to the success of his program. He will be sorely missed.”
Saward arrived at Middlebury in 1985, when he took over the men’s soccer and women’s squash programs; he coached the squash team for 21 years. He has led the soccer squad to 27 postseason appearances in 31 years, including five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (1994-1998) and 10 overall. He has more wins than any other coach in Middlebury soccer history.
In 2007, Middlebury set a school record with 18 wins against two losses and two ties, and Saward was named both the New England and NCAA Division III Coach of the Year.
Saward’s teams have also captured two ECAC titles (1986, 1989) and three NESCAC championships (2000, 2007, 2010). He earned New England Coach of the Year six times and NESCAC Coach of the Year twice.
Quinn said Middlebury is fortunate to have Elias ready to take over.
“Coach Saward’s departure creates an opportunity for one of the outstanding emerging coaches in college soccer,” Quinn said. “Alex possesses the combination of an astute mind for soccer, the ability to teach and communicate exceptionally well, and the balanced perspective necessary to coach at the NESCAC and Division III level. We have been fortunate to have Alex on our sidelines for the past several years, and it became clear over time that we were fortunate to have our eventual successor as our assistant coach.”
Elias will enter his fifth season as the team’s top assistant coach this fall and said his time working with Saward has prepared him to take over.
“It is a constant education working with Coach Saward,” Elias said. “He knows the game so well, he cares deeply about his players, and he manages to keep perspective regardless of the circumstance. It is my honor to continue to work with him, as well as collaborate as we move the soccer program forward.”
The Panthers have reached the NESCAC semifinals in three of the four seasons since Elias has joined the staff. He has helped develop 15 All-NESCAC players, the 2014 NESCAC Player of the Year, three All-Americans, and two Academic All-Americans. In the classroom over the past three years, the Panthers have earned the NSCAA Team Academic award each year, achieving the 10th highest GPA in the nation across all divisions in 2014.
Prior to working at Middlebury, Elias spent three seasons as the lead assistant and recruiting coordinator at Division I Long Island University-Brooklyn. During his four-year soccer career at Middlebury, Elias played in three NESCAC championships and captained the 2007 championship team. That year Elias received First Team All-American, All-New England and All-NESCAC honors.
A Manchester native, Elias was an NSCAA High School All-American at Burr & Burton and helped the Bulldogs win two D-II titles, including a 2-0 defeat of Mount Abraham in 2002. He was the Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year and has been inducted into the BBA athletic hall of fame. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in economics from Middlebury and earned an M.A. in psychology from LIU Brooklyn in 2013.