From Greece to Mount Carmel: How Pavlos Petrou built a winning soccer program

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New Orleans (WGNO) -- “I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” said Mount Carmel Girls Soccer Coach Pavlos Petrou.

A trip from Greece to the United States for college turned into a full ride to play soccer at UNO, buying a restaurant, and ultimately calling New Orleans home. In the past three decades, Petrou had become embedded in the soccer community.

“My play was four years here and then I was going to go back home and just do my thing,” Petrou said. “I was not planning on things working out the way they did, but they did in a very good way for me.”

Ten years ago, Petrou took over the Mt. Carmel girls’ soccer program, just a year after Hurricane Katrina. Not only did he have to piece the program back together, but he also had to adjust to coaching high school girls—something he’d never done before.

“It took me a couple of years to tell you the truth,” Petrou said. “To realize and to find-out what the differences are—which is a big, big difference. I realized it’s two different planets.”

In the past decade, Mt. Carmel has won 2 state championships and made 4 apperances in the finals since 2010. They are now one of the top 5 best teams in the state and top 5- in the nation. And the success has become a family affair, with his daughter Sophia having played for the team just a few years ago, and his son Alexi is now an assistant coach.

“It’s great for me,” Petrou said. “I hope it is for him. It’s wonderful having him here and watching him grow within the program.”

There’s still more coaching ahead for Petrou and as he continues down this path, he only hopes he’s been able to have a positive impact on the players he’s coached.

“It would make me very happy if they said that my passion and love for the game and teaching the game shows, because that’s why I’m doing it,” Petrou said.

Mt. Carmel’s girls soccer team will play for their third state championship under Petrou when they take-on Fontainebleau Thursday in the LHSAA Division I title game at 5:30 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium.