Women’s soccer program starts a new chapter after SIU hires Coach Craig Roberts


Photo by Saluki Athletics

Craig Roberts speaks at his first press conference after becoming the new head coach of SIU women’s soccer.

The Salukis have hired former Grambling State Coach Craig Roberts. Just last season, Roberts went 9-7-3 as head coach of the Tigers. 

Roberts said he is thrilled to take up the new opportunity. 

“This school has got a great reputation nationwide. We’ve got great facilities and athletic support, not only from the fans but also from the athletic department,” Roberts said, “Also, the opportunity to put my stamp on the program is really inviting.” 


Last season, the Salukis’ women’s soccer team went 0-15-1 under previous Head Coach Grant Williams. After two straight seasons without a single victory, SIU leaders fired Williams on Nov. 10, 2021. 

Sophomore forward Sam Dodd said last season was demoralizing at times. 

“It was really hard overall to stay positive throughout most of the season,” Dodd said.

Not only did the Salukis have one tie, but they finished with 15 straight losses. Junior midfielder Sam DeJulio said SIU players knew they were capable of more. 

During the season, Williams was caught up in an investigation surrounding many women’s sports programs. He was put on administrative leave near the end of the season. Dodd said the question over what was happening within the program was another reason for the Dawgs’ lack of success. 

DeJulio said, “There [were] a lot of added factors last year. But I think our team does have a lot of potential. Within just a couple of our practices, our new coach has been able to unlock some of that.” 

Both players said they wouldn’t put all of the blame on Williams, but agreed it’ll be nice to have a change of scenery. 


“When Grant got fired, it was bittersweet for some people,” Dodd said. “But when we heard there was a national search for our new coach, we all got really excited. It felt like we were starting a new chapter.”

SIU has only had a women’s soccer program for three years. Roberts said he wants to develop a strong culture at SIU for a program that’s still trying to find itself. 

“We need to excel on and off the field. That is something that is very important to me,” Roberts said, “I also want our conduct to be top-level. When someone talks about an SIU soccer player, they should know that person is a talented individual with high intelligence that is also well-respected.”

On the field, Roberts said that he will be working to increase the team’s stamina. After watching the film of the team last year, he felt players would lose their relentlessness late in games due to their lack of energy. 

DeJulio said it can be tough trying to build from the ground up. SIU doesn’t have some of the perks other programs have because of when they started. 

“We were a young group coming in. A lot of our girls weren’t experienced coming in and we would play teams that had already had players who established themselves,” DeJulio said, “But because we have gotten older, we have a lot of potential to be really good next season.”

This could be seen as an advantage, according to Roberts. While the program is very young, so are the players, which means lots of the players have plenty of experience for the upcoming season. 

“I feel that these girls are hungry to change the tide about our team. They want to put SIU on the map as far as a successful and winning program,” Roberts said. 

Dodd agreed with Roberts. She said the players’ are putting their past behind them, and are ready to rally around their new coach.

“We met him almost directly after he had been hired as our new coach. You could tell he was eager and excited to be here, he left a great first impression on me,” Dodd said, “I know my teammates and I are really happy we have somebody who is so ready to come here and flip this culture around.”

Southern Illinois hopes it can win a few games in the early part of next season, in order to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and give the team momentum before heading into conference play. 

“We all want to win games and fix that narrative about us. But ultimately the goal is re-defining the term, ‘winning’,” Roberts said, “It’s not just about winning the actual game, but it’s about our play and correcting our mistakes.”

Both the existing players and the new coach said they have one common goal in mind for next season.

“We want to make a name for this program. With more new teams coming into the conference, he (Roberts) just wants us to go into this next season and blow it out of the water,” DeJulio said. 

But one strong season isn’t going to sustain an entire program. While it’s important to build a strong foundation, Roberts wants his team to be on the mountaintop five years from now. 

“I would like to think we’re competing for a conference championship on a consistent basis. Not only that but also push it even further and make an NCAA appearance,” Roberts said. 

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter