After four years on the women’s soccer team, Jennie Garver ’03 is not ready to retire her shinguards just yet. Garver, an all-Ivy defender, plans to play abroad next year — just like her coach Rudy Meredith.

“Rudy’s been playing in Europe the past couple summers,” Garver said. “I talked with him about it, and he gave me the go-ahead. I guess I’m following in his footsteps.”

Meredith, as Garver can attest, has impacted the lives of his players both on and off the field. For his outstanding work, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America named Meredith Coach of the Year of the Northeast region this week.

He will compete with finalists from the five other regions, along with coaches who led their teams to the national championship semifinal round for the NSCAA/Adidas National Coach of the Year honor. The winner will be announced today.

“I’m so happy for him,” captain Ali Cobbett ’03 said. “So much of our success this year is because of him.”

The Bulldogs had a banner season in 2002; Meredith guided the team to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Elis received an at-large bid to the tourney after finishing the regular season 11-4-2, including wins against Hartford, Harvard and Cornell. They upset Villanova in the opening round before falling to nationally ranked No. 17 Nebraska in the second round.

Players point to Meredith’s positive and personable style for his success as a coach.

“I have never met a man that is so optimistic,” Cobbett said. “This year, he showed us that being positive and believing in yourself and your teammates pays off.”

Meredith’s personality was apparent during game play. The team relied on passing networks and sets — strategies that demand players to trust one another.

Perhaps one of Meredith’s most admirable qualities is his ability to be attuned to his players.

“He gets to know his players as people,” Garver said. “He makes you want to work hard for him and win for him.”

Cobbett agreed.

“He can sense how we feel and shapes practices to our mood,” she said.

Meredith, the winningest coach in Yale history with an 81-52-10 mark, has served as head coach of the Elis for the past eight years. He has established Yale as one of the most successful and respected women’s soccer programs in the region.