Thomas (TJ) Buchholz came to the University of Toledo in 2015 with the goal to return the UT women's soccer program back to prominence in the Mid-American Conference. Just three years later, Buchholz led his team to the top of the MAC, winning the program's fifth MAC Championship and first since 2011.
Now in his fourth season as the head coach of the Rockets, Buchholz and his staff enter the 2018 season looking to take the program to even greater heights following its riveting run to the title last year. The bulk of the roster returns from a squad that won its final two regular-season games in 2017, then swept three contests in the Mid-American Conference Tournament to win the MAC crown and advance to the NCAA Championships.
The Rockets picked up numerous accolades in 2017. Senior midfielder Isa Echeverri was named first-team All-MAC, becoming the first player in program history to be honored as an all-conference player in each of her four seasons. Echeverri also was named to a pair of all-region teams in her final two seasons at UT. Senior Chiara Paradiso and junior captain Hannah Scafaria were second-team selections, while redshirt freshman Madison Perrin was named to the all-freshman team.
In addition to the women’s soccer team’s success on the field, the team continued to uphold a high standard of academic excellence in the classroom, compiling a team grade point average of 3.65 for the 2016-17 school year, which ranked them 13th across all NCAA Division I Soccer programs. For the 2017 season, 13 Rockets made the Academic All-MAC Team, the highest in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets have achieved a team GPA of better than 3.5 in every semester since Buchholz became head coach, including a department-best 3.679 team GPA in the fall of 2016.
Toledo's turnaround began almost immediately after Buchholz's arrival in 2015. The Rockets finished that season with a three-game winning streak that punched their ticket to the MAC Tournament. The rebuilding process continued in 2016 and culminated with a 12-8-3 record (6-3-2 MAC) in 2017 that earned UT the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament. Toledo knocked off Western Michigan, Ball State and Bowling Green by identical 2-1 scores to take the MAC title, the final two victories coming in overtime.
Success is nothing new to Buchholz, who has recorded more than 200 wins in 16 seasons as a head coach at the collegiate level. Buchholz’s achievements also include the unique success of taking teams to the national tournament at the NAIA, NCAA Division III, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division I levels.
Prior to coming to Toledo, Buchholz served as the head coach at Southwest Minnesota State for four seasons. He posted a record of 38-32-5 in four years at NCAA Division II SMSU, including 29-24-5 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. He helped the Mustangs establish 17 school records during his stay at SMSU.
In 2013, SMSU reached new heights by earning a berth into the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history. The Mustangs earned two postseason victories along the way, defeating No. 1 seed Minnesota State to snap the Mavericks’ 36-match home winning streak and advance to the NCAA ‘Sweet 16.’ SMSU wrapped up the year with a school-record 16 wins and was ranked No. 18 in the Top 25 poll. For the squad’s efforts on the pitch, Buchholz was tabbed the NSIC Coach of the Year.
SMSU had six players garner all-conference accolades in 2013, including Brienna Dehkes, who earned NSIC Goalkeeper of the Year honors. Cadena was also named the NCAA Division II Central Region Player of the Year and became the program’s first ever All-American. SMSU had a total of five players earn all-region laurels in 2013.
Buchholz laid the foundation during his first two seasons, producing a 5-10-1 record in 2011, the program’s highest victory total since 2004, and improving again in 2012, finishing with a 7-9-1 mark.
Academically, SMSU maintained at least a 3.0 team grade-point average every year since 2011 and earned multiple NSCAA Team Academic Awards.
Buchholz came to SMSU after spending one year (2010) as assistant women’s soccer coach at NCAA Division I California-Riverside.
Prior to his stint at UC-Riverside, Buchholz spent two seasons (2008-09) as the head women’s and men’s soccer coach at NCAA Division III Wartburg College (IA) and seven seasons (2001-08) as head coach of the men’s program at Northwestern College (IA). He also served one season as the Northwestern College head women’s soccer coach (2007).
During his two seasons as Wartburg’s women’s head coach, the team compiled a 31-5-4 overall record, won the program’s first-ever conference championship in 2008 and achieved the first-ever national ranking in 2009. He led the Wartburg men’s team to a pair of conference tournament championships, two NCAA Championship appearances and an overall ledger of 31-10-2. In the classroom, both programs received NSCAA Team Academic Awards in 2008 and 2009.
Prior to arriving at Wartburg, Buchholz was at the helm of the men’s soccer program at Northwestern College for seven seasons, recording a record of 68-59-5. During his tenure, the Red Raiders won one conference title, advanced to four NAIA region tournaments, won the 2007 championship and secured a spot in the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in program history. He was named the 2007 NAIA Region Coach of the Year.
Buchholz began his coaching career in 2000, spending one season as the assistant men’s coach at Northwestern College. He also served as the head women’s soccer coach at Northwestern during the 2007 season, leading the squad to a 7-10-1 ledger.
A native of San Bernardino, CA, Buchholz earned a B.A. in sociology from Northwestern College in 1999 and earned his master’s degree in sports management from California University (PA) in 2008.
Buchholz and his wife Candace have three daughters, Season, Chloe, and Sophie.