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Tom Eichelkraut

Eichelkraut

He sits, almost stoically, in a chair at the far end of the Oregon Tech women’s soccer bench, between head coach Brandon Porter and assistant coach Phoebe Hendry.

He does not say much.

Associate head coach Tom Eichelkraut, however, is a key component of the Hustlin’ Owls efforts as they head into the Cascade Collegiate Conference playoffs Tuesday as the tournament’s No. 1 seed, having won the regular season conference championship.

“From where it’s come, I feel like this is a huge step for women’s soccer,” the long-time assistant said.

When Eichelkraut joined the program, coaches was part-time, and he gives them credit for their efforts under their circumstances.

“It wasn’t taken as serious,” he said.

“(Former OIT President) Chris Maples was a huge advocate for us to get a new field, to have full-time coaching,” Eichelkraut, who played high school soccer at Henley, said. “That has enabled us to focus in on the team, to make it better.”

Enter Porter, who is in his fifth season at head women’s soccer coach.

“What’s happened means a lot to me because he’s allowed me to be part of this,” Eichelkraut said. “It means a lot because I’ve seen the growth of the team. It makes me feel good to see the girls get the rewards they deserve. Their hard work has paid off.”

“A lot of credit goes to the assistant coaches,” Porter said. “A lot of credit goes to Tom. There’s a reason we have elevated his position (to associate head coach). He’s seen it go from the bottom to the top. He’s the emotional piece.”

Henley grad Aimee Bruner, also a Henley grad, said: “Tom’s always a breath of fresh air. He balances Brandon really well.”

“He knows the culture. He knows what we need. He brings a lot to the table,” Hailey Satyna, a senior like Bruner, said.

Would Eichelkraut have envisioned OIT women’s soccer being at the point where it is ranked No. 24 in the country and guaranteed a place in the NAIA national championships because of its regular season title.

“Six years ago,” he said. “No.”

“Five years ago with Brandon, yes. That was the turning point, when we went a different direction with a full-time coach. Seeing Brandon take on that first season, I knew something good was coming. I just didn’t know it would be this soon.”