PISCATAWAY, NJ – Karina LeBlanc has been named an assistant coach with the Rutgers women’s soccer program, while Erica Stewart has been tapped as the volunteer assistant coach, sixth-year head coach Glenn Crooks has announced.
“It’s always exciting to have new people in the program because they bring new ideas,” said Crooks. “Both Karina and Erica have played at a high level, they are very passionate about the game and they have transferred that passion into a desire to coach. In the very brief amount of time that they have been with us, they have already paid big dividends as we prepare for the start of preseason camp.”
LeBlanc has played with the Canadian Women’s National Team since 1999, leading the Canadians to a fourth-place finish at the 2003 Women’s World Cup and a 12th-place effort at the 1999 Women’s World Cup while earning recognition as one of the world’s top keepers. LeBlanc competed at the 1999 Pan-American Games, and has served as a worldwide ambassador for the Canadian WNT.
Most recently, LeBlanc has spent the summer of 2005 playing with the New Jersey Wildcats in the W-League alongside Rutgers junior Domenique Esposito (Rivervale, NJ) and incoming freshman Kristen Edmonds (Metuchen, NJ), leading the Wildcats to the W-League title with a 3-0 shutout of Ottawa in the championship match Aug. 7. A member of the 2005 W-League All-Tournament and All-League Teams, LeBlanc was the starting keeper for the World Team at the 2003 Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) All-Star Game, and helped lead the Boston Breakers to that year’s league championship.
LeBlanc has served as a goalkeeper coach with the Canadian Under-15 National Team, has developed goalkeeping clinics throughout the United States and Canada, and has been active with several charitable organizations. A two-time all-Big 12 selection during her collegiate career at Nebraska, she was named an All-American, the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year and a Hermann Trophy finalist at the conclusion of the 2000 season. LeBlanc received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Nebraska, and was a two-time first-team selection to the Academic All-Big 12 Team as well as a recipient of the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award.
“Karina is big-time,” stated Crooks. “She is only 25 years old, but she is extremely mature and she has a clear understanding of what it takes to be successful. Everyone I talked to during this hiring process really raved about her, and more about the kind of person she is than about her tremendous ability as a player.”
A 2005 graduate of Villanova, Stewart was a standout midfielder for the Wildcats, starting 54 of 88 career matches, collecting 20 points (8 g, 4 a) and leading Villanova to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2001-2004).
Stewart collected nine points (4 g, 1 a) as Villanova advanced to the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, she started 10 of 20 matches, helping lead the Wildcats to a first-round appearance in the national tournament. As a junior, Stewart converted the game-clinching penalty kick in the BIG EAST Tournament championship match, leading the Wildcats to their first-ever BIG EAST title, then tallied an assist in Villanova’s 2-1 victory against Princeton in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats eventually reached the Sweet Sixteen, bowing out to BYU on penalty kicks (0-0, double overtime). She finished her career with a six-point (2 g, 2 a) effort in 2004 as VU reached the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
A native of Cranford, NJ, she helped lead Cranford High School to a ranking of second in the USA Today and National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) national polls. An all-state selection, she also was a five-year member of the Olympic Development Program’s (ODP) State Team and a two-time selection to the ODP National Pool. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Villanova.
“We have known Erica for about six years, since she played club ball for (Rutgers associate head coach) Mike O’Neill and the PDA Dynamo,” Crooks said. “The first thing she said when we discussed this position is that she really wants to be a coach and, for someone her age, she has had quite a bit of coaching experience, working with youth teams and at camps. She has a great rapport with the players, and comes from a very successful program at Villanova, where she was a captain as a senior. She has a very clear understanding of how players need to be accountable. She held herself accountable at Villanova, and became a very good player.”
Rutgers finished the 2004 season with a 9-10-1 mark overall and a 4-5-1 record in conference play, advancing to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament. The Scarlet Knights will begin the 2005 campaign with three consecutive home matches, starting with an Aug. 26 match-up against Temple at 7:00 p.m.