The 2012 campaign for the Phoenix women’s soccer team marks the fifth season at the helm for head coach Chris Neal. Neal came to Elon after serving as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. As a 1995 graduate of UNC-Wilmington, Neal’s first coaching job came when he was hired as an assistant men’s soccer coach at Augusta State. While coaching, Neal earned his masters of education degree in education administration and supervision at Augusta State.
The next stop for Neal was when he was hired as the head coach of the men’s soccer team at Pfeiffer University in 1998. Over his three-year stint with the Falcons, Neal led them to their first NCAA Division II ranking in program history.
After leaving Pfeiffer, Neal switched to the women’s side as an assistant coach at his alma matter, UNC-Wilmington. He spent seven seasons with the Seahawks before coming to Elon prior to the 2008 season.
Elon named Neal the head coach of the women’s soccer team on Jan. 2, 2008. In his first season, Neal took the Phoenix from a 5-12-2 record to an 8-8-3 mark. The record marked the first time Elon had been at or above .500 since the 1999 season. Also during the 2008 season, Elon beat Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Maryland by a final of 1-0. It was the first time Elon had topped an ACC opponent in program history.
Prior to last season, the overall team record in a season increased with each year that passed with Neal as head coach. Since his arrival at Elon, the team’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) has increased more than 100 spots nationally, finishing last year ranked 138 out of 322 teams.
In 2010, Neal coached the Phoenix to a second straight 12-win season and a birth in the Southern Conference tournament. Both were firsts for the program since moving to Division I in 1999. Elon shut out College of Charleston on the road in the first round of the tournament, 1-0. Ever since the appearance in 2010, Elon has been a mainstay in the Southern Conference tournament, making the field in each successive season. Of last year’s conference wins, Neal led the Phoenix to a win over in-state rival University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Before the win, the Phoenix was winless in 16 previous matches against the Spartans.
Two out of the four years of Neal’s tenure, the Phoenix has been awarded the NSCAA Team Academic award, which is given when a team carries a combined 3.0 GPA or higher throughout the year. Elon took home the honors in both the 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 academic years.