QUINCY -- Samuel Thomas knew enough about Quincy University's rich soccer tradition and the community's love of the sport to want to coach here.
Something more alluring made it a place he wanted to call home.
"The people are such a draw," said Thomas, a St. Louis native and assistant women's soccer coach at Old Dominion University the past two seasons. "It's the people you want to be around. It's the people you believe in. It's the people that keep you there. That's something I totally buy in and value.
"I knew that about Quincy, and when I got to campus and experienced it for myself, I was sold."
So when QU vice president of athletics Marty Bell offered Thomas the opportunity to fill the vacant head women's soccer coaching position, he didn't hesitate in accepting.
Thomas agreed to take over the program last weekend and was officially named the head coach Tuesday morning.
"If you're in the area, you're familiar with Quincy soccer," Thomas said. "Soccer is embedded in the roots of the St. Louis, too. To be coming back to an area that I know has that tradition and those roots, it's thrilling."
Thomas emerged from a pool of candidates whittled to three finalists who each interviewed on campus last week.
During the past two seasons at ODU, he helped the Monarchs go 18-11-8. Old Dominion enjoyed the best defensive season in program history in 2018, allowing just 16 goals with Thomas serving as the primary goalkeeper coach. Last fall. ODU went 10-4-4 -- its best record in the past 11 seasons.
Prior to joining the ODU staff, Thomas spent three seasons as an assistant at SIU-Edwardsville. That was after spending the 2014 season as the interim head coach at Eastern Oregon University, where the Mountaineers finished 3-8-4.
"I like his energy. I like his enthusiasm," Bell said. "And I like his recruiting ties to St. Louis, which has been a very, very lucrative market for our women's soccer program. His experiences, whether that be club or college, all added up to me that he made the best fit for the situation we currently have and where we see it going in the future."
A native of Chesterfield, Mo., Thomas was a four-year starter at goalkeeper at Principia College, earning first-team All-St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors three times and was the SLIAC Player of the Year as a junior.
Thomas holds the school record for career wins, career ties, and most saves in one game. He is third in program history with 19 shutouts and third in career saves (337).
Beyond playing in the St. Louis area, he's trained goalkeepers at McKendree and Harris-Stowe State University and served as an assistant coach at Principia High School.
It gives Thomas a solid starting point when it comes to recruiting the Gateway City.
"When you have so many conference schools recruiting from the same pool, it's certainly nice to have a unique selling point like Quincy," Thomas said. "Like Quincy's culture. Like Quincy's location. Like Quincy's tradition. Like Quincy's academics. Like Quincy's facilities."
Bell believes Thomas will be a selling point himself.
"He has the personality that will gel and mesh with the kids we have in the program and with those we want to recruit to be in our program," Bell said. "I know he's the right fit."