Now entering his fifth season as the head coach of the NIU women's soccer program in the fall of 2016, John Ross has made significant improvements to the Huskies during his time in DeKalb. With roots in the city of Chicago and an emphasis on defense, the Huskies look to continue to build themselves into one of the top programs in the competitive Mid-American Conference.
Ross, who became the fourth head coach in program history on Jan. 24, 2012, led NIU to its first MAC Tournament semifinal appearance since 2007 during the 2014 campaign and his Huskies have finished in the top eight of the conference standings in each of his four seasons at the helm.
He took over a program that finished 2-15-2 in 2012; and with the same group of players, Ross led the team to an 8-9-2 record in his first season with the program's first positive goal differential since 2007 and a Mid-American Conference Tournament appearance. The Huskies led the MAC in fewest goals allowed at 19 in 2012, thanks in large part to second team All-Mid American Conference goalkeeper Amy Carr. The junior became the first keeper in NIU history to earn All-MAC honors after six shutouts between the sticks.
In his second season at the helm in 2013, Ross' team again improved. The Huskies made their second straight MAC Tournament appearance under his guidance, boasting the best home record in the conference at 6-1-1. He saw then-freshman Alex Elias earn a spot on the MAC All-Freshman team, the fourth women's soccer player in NIU history to claim the honor.
The 2014 campaign saw NIU return to the final four of the MAC Tournament for the first time in seven years as the Huskies went undefeated in their first five league games en route to a third consecutive postseason appearance with Ross at the helm. And his ability to recruit and develop quality young players was proved yet again as Lauren Gierman and Amy Annala became the fifth and sixth NIU women's soccer players to earn MAC All-Freshman honors.
Last season, in the fall of 2015, the Huskies certainly experienced ups and downs throughout the campaign -- but Ross' squad never quit. Led by First Team All-MAC midfielder Lauren Gierman, the program's first selection since 2010, NIU rallied with a four-game unbeaten streak to end the regular season and finish with another top-eight placing in the MAC standings. Forward Taylor Sarver also became the seventh Huskie in program history -- and fourth during Coach Ross' tenure -- to receive MAC All-Freshman honors during her debut season.
Ross came to NIU from North Dakota State, where he started in 2003 as the goalkeepers coach, serving in that capacity for four seasons and helping the program transition from NCAA Division II to Division I. In 2007, he was elevated to associate head coach when the Bison began play in the Summit League.
North Dakota State had a banner year in 2009 as the team won the Summit League regular season championship, finishing the season with a 10-8-2 record and a 7-2 conference record. The Bison topped themselves the following season by winning the Summit League Tournament and clinching NDSU's first NCAA Division I Tournament bid. There the Bison took on perennial power Texas A&M, stunning the Aggies with a 1-1 draw before falling in penalty kicks.
North Dakota State nearly punched a ticket back to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, reaching the Summit League Tournament final for a second consecutive season, but fell to Oakland, 2-1. In Ross' nine seasons on the sidelines, NDSU posted a 96-61-17 record, including a 37-17-10 mark (.656) the last three seasons.
During his nine-year tenure at North Dakota State, Ross served as the North Dakota Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program Director and was an instructor in the coaching education program. He also coached Red River Soccer Club girls premier team.
Upon his hiring at NIU early in 2012, the native Illinoisan expressed his excitement at returning to his home state.
"It means a lot to be back in Illinois," Ross said, an active golf and fan of the Chicago Blackhawks. "I have three sisters within an hour-and-a-half from DeKalb, I have friends I grew up with nearby, and most importantly, I have the Northern Illinois soccer community. It will be nice to reconnect with people that I grew up playing soccer with and who are now coaches."
Ross started his coaching career at Triton College as the head coach of the men's program. In his two seasons with the Trojans, Ross led the team to a 28-7-2 record and the NJCAA Regional Final in 2001. He recruited and coached four youth national team players to the team.
As a player, Ross competed for Triton as a goalkeeper, winning league and regional championships in both seasons. Ross was also a member of the Trojans squad that went to the NJCAA Tournament in 1988 and 1989, where they finished fourth and seventh.
He played professionally for the Colorado Foxes of the American Professional Soccer League in 1992 and claimed the APSL Championship that season. He also served stints with the Chicago Power in the National Professional Soccer League (indoor) and Chicago Stingers in the United States Interregional Soccer League.
Ross owns a United States Soccer Federation "A" license, as well as United States Youth Soccer Association "Youth National" and United States Soccer Federation National "C" course instructor licenses.
He is a native of Elmhurst, Ill. Ross and his wife, Charity, have one son, Jack, recently born in April 2013.
THE ROSS FILE Hometown: Elmhurst, Ill. A.A. Triton College '95 B.A. Northeastern Illinois '00 M.S. North Dakota State '08
COLLEGIATE COACHING EXPERIENCE
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2012-) Head coach - Three MAC Tournament appearances - 2014 MAC Tournament semifinalists - Four MAC All-Freshman honorees - Two MAC All-Tournament selections - One First Team All-MAC selection
NORTH DAKOTA STATE (2003-11) Associate head coach and goalkeepers coach - 2010 NCAA Tournament participants - 2009 Summit League Champions - 2011 Summit League Tournament Runner-up - Six ESPN Academic All-Americans
TRITON COLLEGE (2000-01) Head men's soccer coach - 28-7-2 record in two seasons - 2001 NJCAA regional finalist - Recruited four Youth National Team players
CLUB COACHING EXPERIENCE
NORTH DAKOTA YOUTH SOCCER ASSOCIATION (2003-11) - Director of Olympic Development Program - Coaching education instructor
RED RIVER SOCCER CLUB (2003-11) - Girls premier team coach
COACHING LICENSES - United States Soccer Federation "A" License - United States Youth Soccer Association "Youth National" License - United States Soccer Federation National "C" Course Instructor - United States Soccer Federation "National Goalkeeping" License - United States Soccer Federation "National Fitness" License