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Dual coaching role is labour of love for Ward

Author: Scott Briggs

Posted on Nov 25, 2022

Category: Varsity Sports , Soccer , ACAA

PJ Ward admits there’s been little downtime in his two seasons as the head coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams at UNB Saint John.


Luckily, he’s not a clock-watcher.

“My free time kind of dwindled down, but I coach because I love the sport and I want to help players get better,” Ward said. “It’s never easy coaching two teams, mentally and physically. It’s all about ambition and just the love of the game.”
Ward is following in the footsteps of “mentors” Jason Brown and David Vicente, both of whom previously filled the dual role of coaching the men’s and women’s sides.

Like Brown, Ward played for the Seawolves before turning to coaching.

“The game is always teaching you lessons,” said Ward, who used his business degree (accounting major, concentration in economics) to become a junior accountant with Irving Oil. “I’m constantly reading and analyzing because I’m motivated and ambitious to make myself and everybody else better.”

That approach paid dividends for this year’s women’s squad, which will play in the ACAA semifinal on Oct. 29 in Fredericton. But Ward deflects any personal credit, instead opting to praise his players.

“The biggest reason for their success is each other,” said the sideline general. “They’re there for each other and they play for UNB Saint John. They don’t play as individuals; they play to get the job done. Three points is three points at the end of the day, and that’s all that matters to them.”

That mature mindset starts with co-captains Jillian Smith and Karlee Duval. Both seniors have set fine examples through their trademark worth ethics.

Although she did not play in her first year on campus, Smith has emerged as one of the league’s top goalkeepers. Conversely, Duval made an immediate impact in her freshman campaign, winning ACAA rookie-of-the-year honours.

But the Ecole Samuel-de-Champlain product tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee as a sophomore, leading to surgery and an eventual position switch from striker to winger. 

The next wave is led by second-year striker Joce Splitgerber, who was second in conference scoring with nine goals and 19 points entering the regular season’s final weekend.

Meanwhile, this year’s men’s squad will finish with a record below the .500 mark after suffering a 1-0 setback at home to Crandall University on Oct. 15. But regardless of results, Ward wants to impact all of his charges, on and off the pitch. 

“I want to give back to the players and help them with some of the things I went through, and not just with soccer, but life as well,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what gender it is. We all want to compete and do well at the highest level we can play.”


As a former assistant coach, Ward values the contributions of his own assistants, a list that includes Raine Easton on the women’s side, along with Justin Leslie and Romain Torrecilla on the men’s side. Jacob Dunnett is the goalkeeper coach for both teams.