ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak has embraced challenges since she started her soccer career. After all, what could be more challenging than having to compete with some of the best players in the world as a 16-year old on the U.S. National Team?
Roberts Sahaydak, who was named the UCF women's soccer head coach earlier this week, talked about the unique task that she will face while guiding the Knights Thursday when she was formally introduced at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on campus.
She inherits a program that has won 22 conference championships and made 17 NCAA Championship appearances and replaces Amanda Cromwell, her former teammate on the U.S. National Team. Cromwell left the Knights in April for the same position at UCLA.
Roberts Sahaydak, who spent the past six years as the co-head coach alongside at VCU alongside her husband Tim (UCF's new associate head coach), is excited about maintaining a thriving program that is clearly one of the nation's best.
"The women's soccer program here has had an incredible tradition and success," she said. "This is a huge job. The standards of excellence have been unbelievable. But I love a challenge. On the national team, I was a 16-year old trying to survive at that level. I love that I have the opportunity to take over a program with this standard. That standard is a direct result of the leadership of Amanda Cromwell and the fabulous job that she did here, as well as the other coaches that came before her and took this program to new levels every year."
Roberts Sahaydak spent a decade with the U.S. National Team from 1994-2004, earning 110 caps (with 60 starts). Her career was highlighted by three women's World Cups - among them, the unforgettable 1999 championship - and a gold medal with the 1996 Olympic team.
When Roberts Sahaydak refers to her playing career, she says that she rarely mentions the World Cup appearances or national titles as a collegiate star at North Carolina. Instead she talks about "Cultures of Greatness," and the life lessons that she learned from teammates and coaches.
"That is great and something that I am proud of, but it is absolutely not the thing that really defines me. It is not what I think about every day when I am looking at my student-athletes and wanting to help them. What I think about is the way that players like Amanda welcomed me as a young player, the way that the veterans took care of me on the national team.
"They led by serving. As a 16-year old coming onto the national team, had the most unbelievable gift of having the most amazing role models to watch every single day. Little did I know, that I was taking all these life lessons in. Now as a coach, I feel so inspired because I have this opportunity to share all of these life lessons with my student-athletes. That is my main goal. I am here to serve the UCF family, our women's soccer program and the community. That is what I am here to do."
The success of the program made the coaching search a difficult task for Todd Stansbury, UCF vice president and director of athletics, who credited Cromwell for setting a high standard.
"We wanted to make sure that we got the right person to lead this storied program. I think we hit the home run on this deal," he said. "When you come with the pedigree that Tiffany has as a player and combine that with what she has done as a coach, it is pretty exciting. I couldn't be happier or more excited about our new head coach. And then add the fact that her associate head coach, Tim, has his own pedigree and was one of the first underclassmen picked in the MLS and had his own playing career at UNC and then professionally. I feel like we've got a home run here."