As the soccer team practices each morning at 6 a.m., they have been working on technical skills and conditioning along with one other big adjustment – a new head coach.
The athletic department hired Matt Cosinuke, a former assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati, when their previous head coach, Nick Flohre, left EKU because of personal reasons. At the start of the new year, Cosinuke stepped on campus for the first time as a Colonel.
“Matt is already setting a really high standard,” junior soccer player Larissa Heslop said. “I think that with this team going forward that the staff and everyone here can have a lot of confidence with what he’s going to do with our program.”
With Cosinuke’s previous experience volunteer assistant coaching at both Dartmouth College and Cincinnati, Cosinuke said that he learned what the right environment should look like and how to achieve it. Coming to EKU, his goal is to create a family-like culture to build that successful environment, Cosinuke said.
Growing up in both Vermont and New Hampshire, Cosinuke was involved in many sports, including basketball and soccer. It was not until high school, however, that he realized that his future was soccer, he said.
“A six-foot-one athlete from New Hampshire that can’t dunk is probably never going to play basketball,” Cosinuke said. “I kind of transitioned my focus from trying to maximize my vertical on the basketball court to taking goalkeeping and soccer more seriously.”
His goalkeeping skills are what led him to playing soccer at a Division I level at Florida Atlantic University. Though he did not realize it at the time, FAU was where he began to really learn about coaching, Cosinuke said.
After finishing his collegiate playing career, he was asked to volunteer coach at Dartmouth, where he stayed for two years before moving on to assistant coach at Cincinnati.
When the position for head coach opened up at EKU, Cosinuke said that though he was not expecting to be a head coach this soon, he was going to go for it if he felt that it was the opportunity and place for him and his family. With his wife, Alexis’s, parents living within driving distance, it was another plus for them to be close and able to visit them and their daughter, Iris, he said.
“This opportunity to come in and hopefully build on what Nick’s been able to do I think was something that was very attractive,” Cosinuke said. “I think the facilities, the university – it’s structured for success.”
Though Cosinuke began coaching at EKU less than two months ago, Morgan Ferrara, the soccer team’s graduate assistant, said that he has been working out details for the program, including recruitment planning and tactical strategies, since before he even arrived on campus. Ferrara said she knew from the beginning that he was an extremely hard worker and very kind and genuine.
Heslop said that some of his main virtues are helping the team gain a strong mentality, making the team feel like a family and communicating about everything.
“The biggest point of emphasis is going to be our family values, our culture, our relationships and building that sense of trust because I’m brand new to their family,” Cosinuke said. “I’m trying to figure out how they work, and they’re trying to figure out how I work, so the only thing we’re really talking about is how to make sure that we are a collective family and moving as one group together.”
Above all, Cosinuke cares about his players developing as athletes, students and people, too, Ferrara said. As he has recruits on campus,, he always asks family and close friends about the kind of person the recruit is because as much as he wants good players, he wants players who are good people off the field as well, she said.
Ferrara said that his positive energy, mentality and playing style for the team will make them hard to beat going into the next season.
It is evident, Cosinuke said, that the administration and athletes have a drive for their program to be successful. That support, in turn, will help him and his team going into OVC season next fall.
“I love Eastern. It’s a small community, like the one I grew up in. People are really passionate about Eastern,” Cosinuke said. “Go Big E!”