Zach Jensen has a history with the Newton High boys’ soccer program. No, he did not play for the Cardinals. He played against the Cardinals in a substate game in 2009.
Jensen scored a long goal with less than a minute to play in regulation to put Johnston up 2-1. The Dragons knocked off the 14th-ranked Cardinals, 2-1.
Now, Jensen has taken the reins of the Cardinal boys’ soccer program and is ready to guide Newton to continued success. The first-year head coach said he’s excited about coaching Newton in the 2017 season.
“I know the guys are itching to get back into it. They told me they were eight minutes away from qualifying for the state tournament last year,” Jensen said. “I’m a big believer in looking at where we’ve come from as a program. I told the guys the last time a Newton team had qualified for a boys’ state soccer tournament was in 1995.”
Qualifying for the state tournament is a long-term goal for the Cardinals’ season, Jensen said.
“We have to take it game-by-game,” Jensen said. “I’ve been able to see some of the guys play in our open gyms in the offseason and they’ve played in the Pella high school league at the recreation center in Pella on Saturdays.”
Jensen, 26, played four years for Johnston High School then played four years on the Central College soccer team at Pella. He played at Central from 2009 to 2012.
Jensen brings coaching experience with him as well as playing experience. He spent the past three years on the coaching staff at Johnston High School. He was a volunteer assistant coach at Central College last year. He said he coached at soccer clubs in Pella and Des Moines.
“I recently moved back to the area as my wife is a teacher at Knoxville. I knew I was going to miss coaching at the high school level. I enjoyed coaching college soccer, but seeing high school kids develop and grow over the course of four years is something I really enjoy,” Jensen said.
Jensen said when Newton High Athletic Director Scott Garvis reached out to him about the boys soccer head coaching position, he discussed it with his wife and decided to apply.
“I am ecstatic to have Zach join our staff at Newton,” Garvis said. “It’s important that we surround our students with quality coaches and quality people, and Coach Jensen certainly encompasses both. I am confident he will play a key role in helping our boys soccer program reach new heights.”
Jensen said Eric Robbert, who recently moved to Pella and is from the Chicago area, is a new assistant coach this season. Steve Weeks, who has been an assistant coach for Newton, also is on Jensen’s coaching staff.
“Everything starts with defense in my coaching philosophy. I played defense in my career, and I’m huge on working on our team’s defensive shape,” Jensen said. “I’m a possession-minded coach so we’ll look to possess the ball and take care of it as we attack. Also fitness and character are key for my teams. We’ll work on conditioning a great deal. I want our players making the right decisions on and off the field.”
Jensen said Cardinal fans can expect to see high-energy soccer from his team. He said he likes to have his team press the action at the beginning of games to score an early goal.
“I’m excited about coaching a team in the competitive Little Hawkeye Conference. We’re set on winning the conference and qualifying for the state tournament,” Jensen said.
Newton’s boys began soccer practices Monday. Winter weather has pushed most of their practices indoors, but Jensen was hoping to be on the field at H.A. Lynn Stadium later this week.
The Cardinal boys have a scrimmage against Ottumwa at home on March 27. They open the 2017 season on March 30 at home against Southeast Polk then host their annual tournament on April 1.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org