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First-year MTU women’s soccer coach settling in amid challenges

HOUGHTON — A college-level coaching job can be a daunting task.

There are many unknowns, expectations to be met and unforeseen challenges to be faced. Add in a global pandemic and the new position only gets stranger — just ask Turk Ozturk.

Ozturk became the Michigan Tech women’s soccer head coach in November 2020.

“When I came on, we had one or two training sessions, and then the university was shut down because of COVID,” he said. “I entered into a strange world. So, I focused on getting to know my student athletes via Zoom. That was tough. Even worse is the fact that we weren’t sure if we were going to even have a season.”

The soccer Huskies (4-3-1) will close out their regular season at 1 p.m. today against Wisconsin-Parkside (0-6-2) at Kearly Stadium. Today’s game will just be the Huskies ninth game of the shortened season. Each of the 10 GLIAC teams played each once. The GLIAC tournament will start on Tuesday with the top-eight teams competing. With a win today, the Huskies will be ranked fourth for the tournament.

Ozturk said he was faced with another challenge upon his arrival, and that was having to finalize athletic-scholarship commitments from high school seniors from around the Midwest.

“So, while I am trying to get to know my own team via Zoom, I am trying to finalize our incoming recruiting class,” he said. “I was having to do that through video that these girls were sending me – not ideal.”

Ozturk is no stranger to coaching soccer at a highly-competitive level. In addition to coaching at the Division I level with the University of Tennessee and Northwestern University, he spent 15 years coaching club, high school and semi-pro soccer in the Twin Cities. For his efforts, he was recognized as the Minnesota Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association in 2015.

In January, when sports programs were able to slowly start up again, Ozturk and his squad began indoor practices at the University’s SDC.

“Again, it was not ideal being inside of the gym,” he said, “but we got lucky in the fact that when we finally got outside on our turf, we had about eight training sessions before going into our GLIAC games, and that certainly made a difference.”

As his whirlwind first season winds down, Ozturk has nothing but good things to say about his players.

“I’ve been impressed with this team’s work ethic,” he said. “These girls have worked hard even with the confusion of this year. They’ve been very flexible all season.”

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