William and Mary unveils field named after Jill Ellis ’88

RYAN GOODMAN // THE FLAT HAT Dedicated to former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis ’88, the field in her name includes a brand new scoreboard and lights for night practices and games.

Saturday, April 20, William and Mary athletics dedicated the Jill Ellis Field in honor of former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis ’88, L.H.D ’16.

Made possible by donations from Jennifer Tepper Mackesy ’91, D. Scott Mackesy ’91 and J. Goodenow “Goody” Tyler III HON ’11, the field is located on Ironbound Road in the new 1987 Women’s Soccer Team Training Center. Its enhancements include a new scoreboard and lights for night practices and games.

The April 20 ceremony honored both Ellis and the 1987 Tribe women’s soccer team, which made it to the Elite Eight and finished in the top five nationally. Ellis served as captain when Mackesy was a freshman on the 1987 team alongside current women’s soccer head coach Julie Shackford ’88.

The same weekend, Ellis was also inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

“Without question, the immediate support of my family here today has buoyed me through the highs and lows of coaching,” Ellis said during her induction speech.

Ellis currently serves as president of San Diego Wave FC. As USWNT head coach, Ellis helped the team win back-to-back FIFA World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019.

During her time at William and Mary, Ellis played forward, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament all four years. She places ninth in Tribe program history for career points and goals, with 83 and 32, respectively. Ellis also earned Third Team All-American Honors for her collegiate achievements.

“I quite literally found my tribe when I enrolled at William and Mary,” Ellis said. “It was here I found my voice, built lasting friendships and realized that pressure actually brought out the best in me.”

Ellis was inducted into the William and Mary Hall of Fame in 2002 and received the Tribe Champion for Life award in 2016. She also gave the 2016 Commencement address and was presented with an honorary degree.

Ellis’s recognitions extend far beyond William and Mary. In 2023, she was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame for her achievements as USWNT head coach. Ellis helped the team to a 106-7-19 record during her tenure, making her the all-time winningest USWNT head coach in team history.

Born in Portsmouth, England, Ellis often played with boys’ teams as she found few opportunities for girls or women to play soccer. After her family moved to the United States in the early 1980s, Ellis captained her high school’s soccer team in Fairfax, Va.

Additionally, Ellis played for the Braddock Road Youth Club Bluebelles soccer team, a critical experience in her journey.

“It was a sliding door moment that changed my life,” Ellis said. “When I joined the outstanding group of women, I learned firsthand what commitment and sisterhood looked like.”

Despite her successes as a player, Ellis never expected to be a coach. After she received her degree in English literature and composition from William and Mary, she worked as a technical writer. Eventually, Ellis kick-started her professional coaching career as an assistant head coach at N.C. State, where she also earned her master’s degree in technical writing. After completing her master’s, Ellis spent three years coaching at Maryland and two years at Virginia.

Drawn to the opportunity for change, Ellis served as the first women’s head coach at Illinois-Urbana-Champaign for two seasons. There, she led the team to its first Big Ten tournament and a 19-18 record.

Hired by the University of California-Los Angeles in 1999, Ellis served as the winningest coach in school history. Over her 12 years with the Bruins, she led the team to a 229-45-14 record and eight NCAA College Cup appearances.

Before serving as USWNT head coach in 2014, Ellis was the team’s interim head coach in 2012 and 2014. Following her resignation in 2019, she became a U.S. Soccer Ambassador. Launched by U.S. Soccer in 2019, the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund aims to empower elite professional female coaches.

Though she has come far since her William and Mary days, Ellis attributes her college coaches and teammates to much of her success.

“I give them all so much credit in shaping me and the way I became and the coach I became,” Ellis said. “Most significantly, looking back, I was loved. The care we took of each other was so very real, and the bonds we have today were built on the love we gave to each other back then.”


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