FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After a Big Sky Championship in 2014 and an appearance in the NCAA College Cup, the Northern Arizona women's soccer team had an assistant coach spot open up and over 100 applicants wanted to become a part of the Lumberjack Family. Head coach Andre Luciano filed through the resumes and after a thorough interview process, Vijay Dias has been named as the new assistant coach for Lumberjack soccer.
"I am really excited to be a part of a great soccer program," said Dias who was recently an assistant coach at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. "Having known Andre for a while now and the philosophy he believes in was a key driving force in coming to Flagstaff. There is a strong support system here in NAU Athletics and with Andre, the Indiana connection, this is a great situation to be in."
NAU Soccer is nothing new to Dias having spent some time watching the Lumberjacks make their championship run this past season November in Missoula, Mont. attending matches when he was helping run a brand new men's soccer program at Carroll College where he had to help recruit a new team that included 16 freshmen sprinkled with a few transfers.
"We were very fortunate this year because we had a lot of quality applicants and I felt that adding Vijay would bring us someone that has competed and won national championships as a player," said Luciano. "He has coached at a Big Sky school that has won championships but most importantly for me I have known him for quite some time as a player at Indiana University. We have a similar background in terms of coaching philosophy and the game but he has also had some different experiences that I feel will help elevate our program."
Dias and Luciano's relationship goes back to their playing days at Indiana University where Dias was a National Champion in 2003 and in 2004 as an undergraduate assistant coach. The two would see each other during the summer on the campus of IU where both would work the Indiana Soccer Camps. Dias and Luciano had not seen each other for a while until 2011 when their paths crossed in Montana. Luciano took his Lumberjacks to face the Grizzlies and at the time Dias was a volunteer assistant for Mark Plakorus. The two were able to talk on the field and after that, the Indiana duo stayed in contact ever since.
Luciano always preaches the NAU Soccer motto "Jacks4Life" and the three-time Big Sky Champion is embodying his motto by bringing a former Hoosier to his new family.
"The fact that he played where I played and he understands the traditions that our alma mater had established for 40 years and the importance of family and what that means to me," said Luciano. "When I try to explain the vision I have for this program, I have a current coach (Carolyn Savage) who played for me here at NAU and embodies what it means to be a Lumberjack but now we are bringing someone in who knows how important the aspect of family is to our program and Vijay will embrace that culture."
The former midfielder brings a wealth of knowledge having played professional soccer in India playing for Eagles FC of Kerala where he lived with two Nigerians and a Ghanaian, the same team his father played for during his professional career. Dias also competed in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) for the LA Blues, Miami FC, and the Virginia Beach Mariners. Dias also competed at the highest level of soccer in the United States in 2004 for the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer (MLS).
"I feel that is very valuable for me to be able to jump in with the ladies during practice to show what I am trying to coach rather than just talk about it," said Dias. "That is where I feel my playing experience helps out my ability to coach. I want to be able to give tips here and there to the players that will only help them become better."
The whole mindset of the NAU Soccer Program is to continue the success of an amazing 2014 season where the Lumberjacks ended the season hoisting the Big Sky Championship trophy and Luciano feels that the addition of Dias will only help the process.
"One of the things that is really important for us is that we continue to build off what we did last year," said Luciano. "We found someone that philosophically and ethically fits us and will appreciate Flagstaff and NAU for what it is."