SOUTH BURLINGTON – Shawntel Burke will make her varsity coaching debut on Sept. 2 where she spent her varsity player: Burlington High School.
But the team she’ll lead onto the field sports green and white.
Hired in June, Burke, who set scoring records as a player at Burlington, takes over the Rice Memorial High School girls soccer program from St. Ambroise “Azzie“ Azagoh-Kouadio, dismissed from the school in May after 15 years as a coach and 25 as a teacher.
And Thursday, the opening day of preseason for high school soccer teams in Vermont, Burke was finally able to put into action weeks of planning and anticipation.
“I’ve been doing soccer plans for probably the last month and a half to prepare — once I found out,” Burke said.
Her first game in charge of the Green Knights is a primetime clash at 7 p.m. against the Seahorses and coach Jeff Hayes, who led the junior varsity team at Burlington when Burke was on varsity.
“When I accepted this position I told Jeff, ‘I guess I’ll see you on the field,’” Burke said. “It’ll be great to go back to my stomping grounds and play against a fabulous club there too. Under the lights at Burlington, there’s nothing better than that.”
Burke coached in the JV and middle school programs at Milton, as well as with the Nordic Soccer Club, before arriving at Rice, which has won 10 or more games every season since 2007. The Green Knights won their last championship — and lone Division I crown — in 1999 under Azagoh-Kouadio.
To ensure a smoother transition, Burke said she talked with returning players during summer sessions for feedback on the way the program worked in previous years. Her assistant coaches, including Kevin Cook, have helped assess where the veterans are from last season to now.
“The plan is to keep the momentum of what the team did last year. (I’m) not looking to change a lot of things, just coming in with a positive attitude and continue to build a successful program,” Burke said.
“I’m really excited. We have a lot of talent, even the new group coming in, there’s a lot of successful girls,” she said. “We’re looking to have two very skilled teams, successful programs, so when the seniors move on after next year we can fill those roles with talented players.”
• Bayer-Pacht to lead Rebels: Former South Burlington High School basketball player and junior varsity coach Solomon Bayer-Pacht has been chosen to take over the varsity program, athletic director Ed Hockenbury announced Thursday.
Bayer-Pacht, 25, replaces Mike Kennedy, who retired after the 2013-14 season after leading the program for 15 years.
Also an assistant with the Rice Memorial program for two years before taking on the Rebels’ JV team last winter, Bayer-Pacht has been a head coach with the Lone Wolf Athletics AAU program for three years, winning three state championships.
“He is an incredibly passionate and enthusiastic coach, with a great basketball mind,” Hockenbury said in a news release. “For a young coach, he brings a range of experience and outstanding knowledge of the game.”