After the Vikings’ soccer team fell to Minnesota State in the NSIC tournament in November, the season wrapped up for a few months.
In January, after returning from his honeymoon, assistant coach Aric Spader gave his two weeks to head coach Brandon Barkus.
“I went through an initial sadness,” Barkus said. “Then honestly I went through a stage of bitterness. It kind of broke me a little bit. We’ve been good friends for a long time.”
The now-former assistant coach Spader said he wanted to focus on his family and be around for them, which the constant travel of soccer didn’t allow for.
“I was always proud to say I was a part of the women’s soccer program,” Spader said. “I resigned my position because of my family and that my wife and I needed to be around more for our family and not miss as many things as I did previously.”
Spader told a few players who were on campus and sent a group message to the rest.
“No one really saw it coming at the time, so we were all very shocked when he said he would be leaving,” junior Josie Arduser said. “It was really sad to find out he was going to be gone so soon.”
Arduser was on a study abroad trip when she and a few other teammates got the message.
“When we found out, we sat and cried on the beach for a while,” Arduser said.
Because Spader resigned during a “break” month, some of the players weren’t able to say goodbye.
“I wish there was a way to find out in person, because he had been a part of the team for every year I was here, and I have not seen him since he left,” junior Sylvia Fehr said.
As the team heads into their spring season, Barkus is looking to hire another assistant. He’s already received more than 30 applications for the position.
“There have been a number of calls regarding the opening so right now I believe Barkus is just looking for the best fit,” Arduser said.
Barkus said he’s asked players their opinion about the potential new hires, and he would like to introduce potential candidates to the team before hiring.
“If I interview people and they’re not what I want, then I’ll just open it back up again and so I’m going to be really particular, and I’m trying to find the best person,” Barkus said.
Barkus is filling in the gaps until the right candidate can be secured. He said originally his plan was to find a replacement by March 15, but he’s not going to rush into anything.
“Barkus has done a great job stepping up without the assistant coach, but it is definitely strange not seeing [Spader] at practices,” Fehr said. “As for the whole team, I think we are all sad to see him go, but we know that it was his decision to make.”
Spader is now working as a recruiter for a Sioux Falls company, Allied Health.
“I truly loved my time working at Augie,” Spader said. “One of the main reasons I stayed as long as I did was because of the tremendous culture coach Barkus has created as the head coach. The women’s soccer program has a culture of not only developing players, but developing people who succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”
Because Spader spent seven years with the Vikings’ soccer, Barkus said he’s excited to bring in a different person to see if the new ideas can take them to a national championship.
“My sadness, bitterness, it has really kind of evolved into a really strong sense of optimism and hope. I want him to be happy, but also too, this is really going to be a great opportunity to start something fresh and make some changes.”
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