Neal named women’s soccer coach


Genevieve Guenther

Lanre Badmus, Staff Writer

The UNC Wilmington women’s soccer team named a familiar face as its new head coach on Tuesday.

Former UNCW assistant Chris Neal, a Wilmington native and a 1995 graduate of UNCW, returns to his alma mater to become the third coach in the program’s 25-year history. The 45-year-old arrives in the Port City following a brief five-month stint as an assistant at Arkansas.

Prior to his tenure at Arkansas, Neal was the head coach at Elon for 10 seasons, where he became the all-time winningest coach in the history of its women’s soccer program. He won the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 after guiding the Phoenix to their first-ever SoCon Championship appearance prior to their 2014 transition to the Colonial Athletic Association.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to lead this Seahawk team,” said Neal in a statement released by UNCW Athletics. “Based on my experience in the CAA, this is a very talented, passionate, and hard-working group of student-athletes. I am excited to get to know them better and to help them achieve their athletic and academic goals.”

Neal also has previous history and experience with the Seahawks program, serving as first as a student assistant coach in the 1995 season. He then served as a volunteer assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams from 2001-04 before becoming an assistant coach from 2005-07. Neal also served as men’s head coach at Pfeiffer from 1998-2000 after being a men’s graduate assistant for Augusta State from 1996-97.

“We want to welcome home a native Wilmingtonian, a UNCW graduate and a true Seahawk,” said UNCW Athletic Director Jimmy Bass in the statement announcing Neal’s appointment. “Chris is a high-caliber head coach with a tremendous commitment to academic excellence. Our student-athletes are going to really enjoy playing for Chris and we’re all looking forward to what the future holds.”

Having experienced success at many of his previous stops, Neal is now focused on guiding the Seahawks to new heights under his watch.

“This program has experienced tremendous success, in both the CAA and NCAA, and I am determined to build on that legacy.”