Skip to Main Content

Margueritte Aozasa, MCAA ’21

March 13, 2023 - 6 minute read

In December, Concordia alumna Margueritte Aozasa, MCAA ’21 became the first coach in NCAA women's soccer history to win a national championship in her first year as a head coach. Her UCLA Bruins accomplished a 3-2 victory against the University of North Carolina, scoring twice in the final ten minutes to force overtime, in which they sealed the game.

“Our whole staff hugged, our team ran onto the field and then poured Powerade on me,” Aozasa told Concordia magazine. “It was so surreal, I couldn’t believe it happened.” 

Still in her early thirties, Coach Aozasa has already built a strong soccer resume. As an assistant coach, she helped guide the Stanford Cardinal’s women’s soccer team to NCAA Championships in 2017 and 2019 and Pac-12 titles from 2015-19. During her time at Stanford, the team went 125-19-8. She and the Stanford coaching staff were named 2016 NSCAA Pacific Region Staff of the Year, and Aozasa was selected to the United Soccer Coaches’ 30 Under 30 Class in 2018-19.

The Bay Area native also coached for ten years at MVLA Soccer Club, one of the top youth clubs in the country. She played club herself growing up, and was a four-year starter at Santa Clara University. 

Even with all her success, she came to a place in 2018 of wanting to fully thrive in her potential — and that quest led her to Concordia’s Master of Arts in Coaching and Athletics Administration (MCAA) program

The initial impetus was Stanford’s loss in the final four.

“At that moment, in that panic, I felt I had plateaued and wasn’t contributing to my staff,” Aozasa says. “I wanted to stretch myself further as a coach, so I started researching master’s programs.”

A friend had completed Concordia’s MCAA program and said it “had really prepared her for the interview process of being a head coach,” Aozasa says. “The program seemed very applicable.” Within a few weeks Aozasa applied and began taking classes.

“It was very thoughtful, very thorough, and encouraged a lot of self-reflection as a coach and leader,” she says of the program. “I really enjoyed that. The work was challenging in a good way. I really enjoyed my interaction with the faculty. I found everybody was so supportive and understanding and invested in my individual growth as a coach. I had many thought-provoking conversations about being a leader and what my path could look like as a coach going forward.”

In 2021, a head coaching position came open at UCLA, a top ten Program. “I applied for the job though I didn’t have my heart set on becoming a head coach,” Aozasa says. “I loved my experience at Stanford, but UCLA seemed like such a great opportunity that I took a chance to see where it went.”

She didn’t expect to get a call back, but did, and within 24 hours was on a plane to L.A. for follow-up interviews. Concordia’s MCAA program helped prepare her for the whirlwind process, she says. “

[In the MCAA program] they have you put together a proposal you could present to a potential employer,” she says. “I had gone through the thought exercise of completing that work, and a lot of the questions they asked in my interview process, I had thought about already. It was really nice that I had gone through those patterns of thought and gone down those pathways and scenarios I could face as a coach.”

She was hired — and married — within a span of ten days. “I knew the talent UCLA had. I knew we could contend for a national championship,” she says. “But it became clear when I met the team face-to-face how much work we’d need to do on and off the field. I wanted to instill a lot more discipline and organization in the way we play.”

She got busy cultivating a culture of open communication, hard work — and fun. “I made sure our team knew we could be one of the most competitive teams in the country and it could still be one of the most enjoyable experiences,” she says.

Aozasa’s plan was to teach as much as she could in the off-season, then encourage her girls to play freely to their highest athletic skills. “We wanted to empower players to trust their instincts, and we would trust them, too,” she says. “When in doubt, play what you see and feel. Getting that across was hugely influential in our success because our players played with a lot of confidence and freedom. When you have talented players, they are here for a reason.” 

The first game was rough, but the Bruins then won three road games in a row against top-ten teams from Santa Clara, the University of North Carolina, and Duke.

 “That’s when I said this team has something special, some of the intangibles necessary to win a championship: resilience, competitiveness, the bond between players,” Coach Aozasa says. “Those things shone through.” 

Concordia’s education again offered an assist. One MCAA assignment had been to create a curriculum for building mental skills into one’s team. “We did something very similar to that at UCLA,” Aozasa says. “Every week or so, we had a team meeting and identified areas of mental skills that could be beneficial to our team on or off the field, as soccer players and adults.”

Conflict resolution was one skill-building exercise; another included a workshop on visualizing stressful moments in games as a way to prepare for when those moments actually happened.

The team went 18-2 in the regular season, was ranked #1 in the country for nine weeks, and sailed into the playoffs as one of four #1 regional seeds. Their semifinal match against Alabama, which boasted the highest-scoring offense in the country, became a statement 3-0 UCLA win.

“It was great to build momentum going into the final,” Aozasa says. 

The championship game, it turned out, was epic, pitting a first-year coach against 46-year veteran women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance. His program at UNC had won 21 championships in women’s soccer — the next highest is three, for perspective — and was a perennial powerhouse.

The first half went scoreless, and fifteen minutes before trophies were hoisted, UNC scored again to make it 2-0. But UCLA battled back and scored five minutes later. Then, with 16 seconds left, they scored again on a corner kick to send the contest into overtime. 

“Our whole team was crying, and that wasn’t even to win — it was to not lose,” Aozasa says. “The real climax of the game was the tying goal because you feel like your season’s over because you’re down with 16 seconds left.”

Neither team scored in the first overtime; then, with three minutes left, the Bruins put a shot into the goal and held on to take the title. “I didn’t even know how to feel. I pointed at our staff like, ‘We just did that,’” Aozasa says. Her new husband, also a soccer coach, was present to celebrate with them.

Having won championships at Stanford, Aozasa took greater pleasure in watching her players and staff “revel in that feeling of winning for the first time,” she says. “I was watching like a proud mom, almost in tears.”

Back home, UCLA rolled out the red carpet to celebrate, and Aozasa ran the media gauntlet. Then Aozasa and her team walked in the Rose Parade. 

Aozasa credits her soccer mentors for helping her attain high goals early in her career. She also says she feels “very fortunate to have gone through Concordia’s MCAA program. Looking back on my progress from assistant to head coach, it was hugely integral in helping me prepare.”

As for next year, “Players and staff know we just barely scratched the surface of what we want to do,” says the now-second-year coach.


Back to top