The 2016 season will mark Joe Kirt's 10th season at Tennessee and fifth as an assistant coach working under head coach Brian Pensky. Kirt is the longest tenured coach on the UT soccer staff and has played an integral role in the program's success.
Kirt's main duties include the training goalkeepers, as well as coordinating travel, recruiting and soccer camps. From late December of 2011 through Pensky's hiring in late January of 2012, he also handled all aspects of the program as UT made a head coaching transition.
Kirt helped lead the Vols to their fifth winning season in the past six years and 15th overall in program history last season. Under Kirt's guidance, redshirt senior goalkeeper Julie Eckel had a phenomenal season to cap off a great career by earning All-SEC first-team honors. She led the SEC with eight shutouts and became the Vols' career leader in saves (.335) and save percentage (.817). The Cordova, Tenn., native also finished her career as the program's all-time leader among goalkeepers in games played (81), games started (79) and minutes played (7,411:14).
Following a preseason injury to starting goalkeeper Julie Eckel in 2014, Tennessee turned to junior transfer Jamie Simmons. Kirt's work with Simmons produced another strong performance by a Tennessee keeper. Simmons played all 2,057 minutes of the season with a 1.18 GAA and her 94 saves ranked sixth in UT history and her seven shutouts tied for seventh best.
UT's goalkeepers were strong once again in 2013 as junior starter Julie Eckel continued to shine between the posts. The team posted seven shutouts and Eckel made 78 saves over 1741 minutes in goal to finish the year ranked second in UT history in career saves (254), shutouts (23.3) and GAA (0.90).
In 2012, Kirt's work with the goalkeepers played a major role in the Tennessee defense emerging as one of the nation's elite units. UT went 14-5-3 and and made its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The team's 0.69 goals-against average set a new program record and the Lady Vols recorded 11 shutouts. UT also produced the longest shutout streak in school history with 533:22 of scoreless defense from Aug. 19 through Sept. 9.
In discussing keeping Kirt on as a part of the coaching staff at his introductory press conference on Jan. 31, Pensky said, "One of the first things my wife Abby and I did when we were on campus was meet with Joe and in the first five minutes of the conversation with Joe, it was easy to tell how genuine he is, how much he cares. He wants what's best for the University of Tennessee Women's Soccer program, and that was so evident and apparent right away. He handled this transition very professionally, cared about each and every one of the kids within the program throughout the process and that tells me everything about who he is. I'm honored and happy that's he's going to stay on with our program."
During his first six seasons with the Lady Vols, Kirt has oversaw the development of starting goalkeepers Molly Baird, Julie Eckel and Jaimel Johnson.
Eckel made quite a debut during her rookie campaign in the Orange & White on her way to Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team honors. The Cordova, Tenn., product turned in one of the best seasons for a goalkeeper in Big Orange history with a 15-7 record, an SEC-leading .833 save percentage, 105 saves and a league-best-tying eight solo shutouts. She broke former Lady Vol net minder Ellen Dean's freshman keeper marks of 11 wins and 5.3 shutouts and made her mark on the overall single-season charts in Tennessee history. Eckel finished fifth in UT single-season annals in shutouts, was tied for fifth in wins and a sparkling fourth in goals-against-average (0.94). With her between the pipes, the Lady Vol defense registered a school record shutout string of 471:10 from Aug. 26-Sept. 23 to go along with a program-best five straight blankings.
As the primary starter between the pipes in 2009 and 2010, Baird posted 19 career victories and 12 solo shutouts (both totals rate fourth all-time in UT history) with 187 total saves (fifth all-time in UT history) and a 1.30 goals-against-average.
Johnson became Tennessee's first keeper to earn All-America status, collecting third team honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and an honorable mention from Soccer Buzz. Under Kirt's tutelage, Johnson set a UT single season record with 111 saves in 2007 and earned back-to-back All-SEC honors. In 2008, Johnson became the first Lady Vol to earn SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after holding opponents to just two goals and stopping two penalty kicks in a shootout with LSU in the semifinals. Johnson finished her career among the top three in all seven UT career goalkeeping statistics and capped her senior season as the No. 70 pick in the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer draft.
Kirt helped lead Tennessee to its eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and its fourth SEC Tournament title in 2008. The Orange and White posted six shutouts and recorded a 1.23 goals against average during Kirt's second year on staff, shutting out two opponents in the SEC Tournament and topping two ranked teams in the regular season.
The 2007 season saw Kirt coach Johnson and the UT defense to 11 shutouts, a 0.88 goals against average and a new program record 457-minute shutout streak. The Lady Vol defense became a nearly immovable force at home, giving up just three goals in nine matches and shutting out the final six opponents it faced at Regal Stadium in 2007, including two NCAA Tournament matches.
In his first year, Kirt helped then head coach Angela Kelly and former Lady Vol assistant coach Jen Laughridge Grubb take the Orange and White to its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament and its fifth NCAA Sweet 16. The three saw Tennessee reach its highest ranking in program history at No. 6 and nearly take home its fifth SEC overall and divisional titles, battling Georgia and Florida to the final day of the regular season. The Lady Vols also tied their record with 18 Academic All-SEC and Freshman Academic Honor Roll selections, and had two ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV honorees.
Kirt joined the Lady Vol staff in July 2007 after spending three years as the Director of Goalkeeping for the Texas Soccer Club's Challenge, a youth soccer organization, located in Houston, Texas, comprised of 29 girls' soccer teams. As the Director of Goalkeeping for the Challenge, Kirt trained goalkeepers from each of the 29 teams and assisted in the scheduling and management of all tournaments for the club. During his tenure, the Challenge won a total of 14 state championships and earned a No. 14 national ranking from Soccer America magazine in 2005.
Prior to his time with the Challenge, Kirt was an assistant coach with the University of Houston under head coach Bill Solberg from 2000-05. With the Cougars, Kirt supervised training for goalkeepers, arranged team travel, oversaw all aspects of the university's soccer camps and acted as recruiting coordinator.
At Houston, Kirt worked with Solberg to help build the program that was created in 1997. Under Kirt's tutelage the Cougars garnered 13 All-Conference USA and Conference USA All-Freshman selections, while UH goalkeepers compiled 20 shutouts during his five years.
During his time at Houston, Kirt also worked as the Director of Goalkeeping and as a professional trainer for the 48 youth teams that are a part of the Texas Premier Football Club. Kirt acted as the college liaison for the club that won a South Texas Youth State Championship and was ranked among the top 25 clubs in the country. Before working as a coach, Kirt used his education in international studies in his position as a scheduler for Fiserv, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wis. There, Kirt assisted with client services and designed and implemented business software.
Prior to joining the professional ranks, Kirt earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies in 1998 from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where he played hockey and soccer. As a member of the Titans' soccer team, Kirt earned three varsity letters playing in goal. As a senior captain in 1997, he led the team to a 13-5-1 record, capping the season with a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Coaches Association First Team selection.
A native of Brookfield, Wis., Kirt holds a National Soccer Coaches Association of America national goalkeeping diploma. Joe, his wife Susan, a seventh-grade teacher, and son Landon (born June 4, 2010) were married in the spring of 2007 and reside in Knoxville.
|THE KIRT FILE|
|Name: Joseph Kirt|
|Hometown: Brookfield, Wis.|
|Education: B.A. in International Studies|
|University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 1998|
|Assistant Women's Soccer Coach, University of Tennessee, 2007-present|
|Assistant Women's Soccer Coach, University of Houston, 2000-05|
|Director of Goalkeeping, Texas Soccer Club Challenge, 2005-07|
|Director of Goalkeeping, Texas Premier Football Club, 2000-04|
|Tennessee earned its highest ranking in program history in 2007|
|Jaimel Johnson became first Lady Vol keeper to earn All-America status|
|Challenge won 14 Texas state championships during his tenure|
|Challenge ranked No. 14 in the nation in 2005 Soccer America club rankings|
|Texas Premier ranked among top 25 in the country|
|Three-time letterwinner with Wisconsin-Oshkosh|
|1997 team captain|
|Led team to a 13-5-1 recod in 1997|
|Wisconsin Intercollegiate Coaches Association first-team selection in 1997|