The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Meet DePaul’s newest fall sports assistant coaches

Ryan Hinske
Men’s soccer assistant coach Martin Alba (center) acknowledges a strong first half in DePaul’s matchup against Loyola Chicago on Sept. 19

Three DePaul teams have new assistant coaches tasked with maintaining team culture and proper development for their athletes. 

Peter McKeown, assistant coach for women’s soccer, came to DePaul this offseason after coaching at St. Thomas University in 2021-2022. At St. Thomas McKeown led the team’s goalkeeper development during their first two seasons as a Division I program. He will continue to focus his attention on goalkeeper development at DePaul. 

“The goalkeeper position is an obsession of mine, and it’s so different than a field player,” McKeown said. 

Prior to his time as a coach, McKeown played for Loyola Chicago, serving as the team’s starting goalkeeper for four years before graduating in 2012. McKeown also played for the Chicago Inferno, Chicago’s team in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League. 

Even though McKeown primarily works with the team’s four goalkeepers, he admires the community that head coach Michele O’Brien and associate head coach Rachel Pitman have built for DePaul women’s soccer. 

“They are students of the game, and I think that sets them apart,” McKeown said.

The men’s soccer program brought in Martin Alba this offseason to join sixth-year head coach Mark Plotkin. 

  Like McKeown, Alba most recently coached for St. Thomas, working on their staff during the 2022 season. He also served as a volunteer coach for Loyola Chicago for two seasons starting in 2019. 

Although this is his first year at DePaul, Alba is excited to return to the Big East, as he played for Marquette’s soccer program from 2014 through 2019. He said he believes his experience in the conference as a player will help him find success as a coach. 

“It helps me because not much has changed in terms of the coaches and their style,” Alba said. 

Even though he has high expectations for the team’s success on the field, Alba strives to prepare his players for life after college.

“We got to help them understand that yes, you’re here for soccer, but you’re also here to set yourself up for the rest of your life,” Alba said. 

Plotkin said Alba’s effort to connect with the players has already strongly impacted the team’s culture. Plotkin also complimented Alba’s “really intelligent soccer mind.”

“He’s great on the recruiting front, and the guys have really taken a liking to him,” Plotkin said.

Moving from the field to the court, Eli Valentin joined DePaul volleyball’s coaching staff this season as an assistant. Valentin recently spent his time coaching at the high school and junior club level, also on the coaching staff for Appalachian State University and the University of Pennsylvania. 

Valentin said he is grateful to join the DePaul community because he believes there is a “unique mission and vision” that is lived out by the program’s student-athletes.

“I love the opportunity to work in athletics with student athletes that are really pushing themselves off the court and on the court,” Valentin said. 

He emphasized that he wants the team to put as much work into serving the Chicago community as they do in volleyball.

“We are very fortunate,” Valentin said. “We get to play a sport. I get to coach a sport that I love. So many other people aren’t in that situation.”

DePaul’s volleyball program began conference play Friday, entering the weekend sixth in the Big East standings with a record of 7-4.

Valentin said the fans can help create an “awesome home atmosphere” for the volleyball team by coming out to support them. He also said the students are a “big part of our program,” as they help the team connect to the entire DePaul community.

“We can build something even more special here,” Valentin said. 

The women’s and men’s soccer programs are working to qualify for their own Big East tournaments later this fall, which begin on Oct. 29 and Nov. 4 respectively. 

Editor’s Note: Ryan Hinske, DePaulia sports editor, contributed to this report

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