The new soccer programs at Erie High School have yet to play a game, but already the Tigers have had to weather the drama of a coaching change.

In late March, Erie athletic director Richie Wildenhaus announced his school’s new boys and girls soccer programs would be led by Shane Smith, who was coming off a three-season tenure guiding the Silver Creek boys program.

However, when Smith’s wife recently was offered a job transfer to her company’s national headquarters in Nashville, it was an opportunity the Smith family could not ignore. It also opened the door for Dayton Owens to be named the second head coach of a program that will make its debut this fall.

“I had just held my parent meeting and a few days later my wife walked in and said, ‘We have to talk,'” Smith said. “It was very unexpected and came at an unfair time, because I believe there are some good things ahead at Erie because of the talent over there.”

The unforeseen turn of events also led to an unexpected conversation in the Owens home.

The owner of a wealth of coaching experience at elite club levels in Florida and Kansas, Owens contacted Wildenhaus about the position somewhat late the first time around, as Smith already had been offered the job. Wildenhaus nonetheless was impressed with Owens’ pedigree, and when the position became vacant once again Owens immediately emerged as a leading candidate.

“It’s been a very exciting turn of events,” Owens said. “I’d love to build a program from scratch like this, and it’s something I’ve done several times at different levels.”

While Owens was only named to the position on Tuesday, Wildenhaus does not believe the sudden leadership shift will dampen any of the momentum the program has gained in expectation of the debut of the Tigers’ boys team this fall.

“Hiring is always a tricky situation,” Wildenhaus said. “You always assume things will work out, but you always have to deal with situations outside coaching. Now this is the best thing for (Smith) and his family. We’ll hit the reset button and be ready for the fall.”

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