The only coach in Saint Joseph’s program history to lead the Hawks to the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Jess Mannella returns for her 16th season at the helm of the women’s soccer squad. In 15 seasons, Mannella has turned around a team that posted a single A-10 win in the year before she arrived, to a highly-competitive club that has since made five postseason appearances and had 21 student-athletes garner Atlantic 10 All-Conference accolades.
Last season, the Hawks posted a record year as they set a new program record for victories (13) and garnered their highest seed in the A-10 Championship, finishing third overall. Along with the team's accomplishments, several student-athletes had memorable seasons. Junior Emily Gingrich set a new single-season record for assists en route to earning A-10 All-Conference and All-Region honors. Senior goalkeeper Allison Ebling set a new single-season mark for wins, while freshmen Paige Bergman and Dakota Mills were recognized as two of the top newcomers in the league as they were both named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team.
Backed by A-10 All-Conference selections Gingrich and Emily Irons, the Hawks returned to the postseason in 2014. Under Mannella's guidance, Saint Joseph's finished the season with an 11-9-0 record and went 4-4-0 in the A-10 to garner the sixth seed for the A-10 Championship. Along with team accomplishments, several Hawks had career years as Gingrich matched the program record for goals in a season, while goalkeeper Allison Ebling set the single-season mark for wins (11).
Under Mannella’s guidance, the Hawks boasted two of the top offensive players in the A-10 in 2013 in veteran Mo Hawkins and Gingrich. The pair ranked in the conference’s top-10 for points, goals and shots, with Gingirich earning A-10 Rookie of the Year and All-Conference Second Team honors and Hawkins becoming the first SJU player to be named All-Conference all four years as she was picked as a First Team selection. Along with those honors, Mannella saw Hawkins cap her career tying for the all-time lead in goals scored (33) and earn Saint Joseph’s distinguished Class of 1950 Award.
Combining a roster of a veteran players with a mixure of youth and talent, Mannella guided the Hawks to their fourth A-10 Tournament appearance in 2012. Picked to finish 13th, Saint Joseph’s played tenaciously under Manella’s guidance, boasting a conference best 0.41 goals against average in A-10 play and earning the sixth seed in the postseason tournament. Individually, Hawkins became just the second player in league history to be named A-10 Midfielder of the Year twice, while Christine Neal became the first SJU goalkeeper to be named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team.
The 2011 Hawks boasted one of its most formidable scoring tandems and got key goals and solid defense to keep them in contention for a conference postseason berth heading into the final weekend of the season. The pair of Hawkins and Jen Pfeiffer finished among the top 10 in scoring for the second straight year, while Hawkins’ play garnered her All-Mid-Atlantic First Team honors as well as A-10 Midfielder of the Year and All-Conference First Team recognition. Earning All-Conference Second Team honors, Pfeiffer set a new mark for career goals at Saint Joseph’s.
Several Hawks posted career years in 2010, while the team fought hard despite several key injuries. Hawkins became the third player under Mannella’s gudiance to earn both A-10 All-Rookie Team and All-Conference honors in the same season, while Maggie Lupinski was named an All-Conference Honorable Mention. Additionally, Pfeiffer helped lead a SJU offense that increased its production in goals-per-game, assists and points from the previous year. Hawkins and Pfeiffer also became the first pair of SJU teammates to finish amongst the conference’s top 10 in scoring.
In 2009, Mannella pushed her team to the brink of a postseason berth as the Hawks remained in contention for the postseason heading into the regular-season finale. While SJU finished two points shy of its goal, the Hawks finished with a program-best 1.07 goals-against-average, with Lauren Sawyer earning All-Conference honors and Neal garnering All-Rookie accolades.
Boosted by the 17th-best ranked recruiting class by SoccerBuzz.com in 2008, Mannella guided the Hawks to the fifth most-improved record in the nation at 8-7-4. Additionally, Saint Joseph’s surpassed the previous record for consecutive victories, stringing together five straight in 2008. Individually, several Hawks posted career years, while Pfeiffer excelled under Mannella’s guidance. Pfeiffer became just the second SJU player - and second under Mannella - to earn Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and All-Freshman Mid-Atlantic Team honors.
Compiling one of the toughest schedules in the region in 2007, Mannella’s young club responded, going 3-4-1 at home and had a pair of freshmen leading the way on offense.
Having graduated the Hawks’ top scorer and goalkeeper, Mannella’s coaching ability shined in 2006 as Saint Joseph’s fought into the final weekend for a playoff spot. Despite falling shy of the program’s fourth-straight postseason appearance, Mannella coached the Hawks to a single-season best 33 goals, while helping Ali Wean become the squad’s first ever A-10 Offensive Player of the Year. Wean also became the second Hawk under Mannella to earn A-10 First Team All-Conference honors, and the first SJU player to be named to SoccerBuzz.com’s Mid-Atlantic Third Team after scoring a single-season record 14 goals.
In 2004, Mannella guided the Hawks to new heights as Saint Joseph’s earned the team’s first postseason victory. Highlighted by a 1-0 win over La Salle in the A-10 Championship Opening Round, the Hawks posted a 9-11-1 overall record and finished 6-4-1 in conference play.
Bringing in several highly-touted recruits and transfers in 2003, Mannella led the Hawks to their first winning season in four years. Saint Joseph’s went 9-8-1 overall and set a program record for Atlantic 10 wins with a 7-4-0 record and qualified for its first A-10 Tournament. The seven-game improvement from 2002 to 2003 ranked among the best in the nation as Mannella guided three players to All-Conference or All-Rookie recognition, including 2003 A-10 Rookie of the Year Megan Schutt.
Away from the sidelines, Mannella has also been instrumental in guiding the team’s previous trips to Brazil, Norway, Spain, California and Colorado. She has directed off-season camps to help raise money for the team, as well as local charities, and was instrumental in establishing volunteer and community service projects for the team.
Prior to coming to Saint Joseph’s in August of 2001, she spent one year as head coach at West Chester University, where the Golden Rams compiled a record of 10-9-1. In addition to her responsibilities of handling the soccer team, Mannella also coordinated all aspects of West Chester’s extensive summer camp.
A four-year starter at Delaware, Mannella earned her undergraduate degree in education in 1997. One of the top playmakers in Blue Hens history, she currently ranks 10th all-time in program history in assists (13) and helped her team to a 48-25-3 record from 1993-96. She returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach in April of 1999 and also served as an assistant women’s soccer coach at Temple for one season.
A native of Swarthmore, Pa., Mannella presently serves as head coach of FC BUCKS U17 NPL team and coaches the U7 and U8 CRUSA Academy. She is also currently working towards a master’s degree in educational leadership at Saint Joseph’s. A former standout at Strath Haven High School, Mannella currently resides in Wyndmoor, Pa., with her husband, Dan, and daughter, Josephine.