‘Coach Cook Is The Man’: Coach’s Leadership Helps Penn State Men’s Soccer End Title Drought
After three years of “almosts” and “what ifs,” Penn State men’s soccer head coach Jeff Cook has finally brought some hardware home to Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions secured the regular-season Big Ten title after an exciting road game against Wisconsin. Now, the team is working overtime to prepare for their first postseason matchup against Michigan State.
Cook gained the head coach position in 2018 with an impressive 27 years of coaching experience under his belt. He boasted a remarkable resume, formerly holding positions with teams and universities such as the Philadelphia Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel FC, Dartmouth College, and the University of Cincinnati.
The Nittany Lions’ program experienced a lull during the end of former head coach Bob Warming’s era. Warming retired in 2017 and soon began the ongoing Jeff Cook experience.
Cook’s first year coaching the Nittany Lions was understandably a transitional year chock-full of rebuilding. But he clearly proved his worth in 2018 after posting a second-place finish in the conference and an NCAA appearance. Since then, things have continued to only look up for Cook and his leadership.
Unfortunately, though, Cook and his Nittany Lions squad had become quite familiar with second-place finishes to Indiana over the past two years. The Hoosiers have monopolized the Big Ten regular-season title every year since Cook’s installment at Penn State.
However, after an impressive season, Cook and the veteran roster were able to end Indiana’s three-year reign of the Big Ten.
“Resilience is a key ingredient in sports and in life,” Cook said.
Penn State men’s soccer had experienced its fair share of close calls throughout Cook’s tenure, highlighted by a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Indiana in the 2020 Big Ten regular-season final.
Sixth-year senior captain Pierre Reedy emphasized Cook’s importance to the team throughout his time at Penn State.
“Coach Cook is the man and really came in and helped turn this program around. He’s a big reason for a lot of our success,” Reedy said.
Despite his success, Cook said that he had done little reflecting on the team’s recent accomplishment and is instead focusing on the next task at hand: Michigan State.
“Our best soccer is ahead of us,” Cook said of the team.
After coming off a three-game losing streak in mid-October, the Nittany Lions are in fierce shape after two impressive performances to close out the regular season. Although the team is comfortably seeded in the No. 1 position, Cook noted the high level of competition in the Big Ten.
“It’s a really balanced league,” he said.
He pointed out that Michigan State is not to be undervalued because of its low seeding in the tournament. Both Cook and Reedy indicated that the team is focusing on the tournament one game at a time.
The Nittany Lions begin their campaign in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan State on Sunday, November 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Jeffrey Field. The match will be broadcast live on BTN+.
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