Chris Neal to head UNCW Women’s soccer program

WILMINGTON, North Carolina ( – Former UNCW assistant coach Chris Neal is returning to his alma mater as head women’s soccer coach, Director of Athletics Jimmy Bass announced Tuesday.

Neal, 45, has spent the last five months as an assistant women’s soccer coach at Arkansas. He previously served 10 years as the head women’s soccer coach at Colonial Athletic Association member Elon.

“We want to welcome home a native Wilmingtonian, a UNCW graduate and a true Seahawk,” said Bass. “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.”

The experienced Neal becomes only the third coach in the 25-year history of the UNCW program, following Keith Cammidge and Paul Cairney.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to lead this Seahawk team,” said Neal. “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.

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

Before his brief stopover in Fayetteville, Ark., Neal was the winningest head coach in Elon women’s soccer history with a 90-76-31 record. He was named Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year in 2012 after leading the Phoenix to their first SoCon championship appearance until overseeing Elon’s transition to the CAA in 2014.

In Neal’s 10-year stint with Elon, the Phoenix posted a winning season six times and 26 student-athletes earned All-CAA honors. Elon’s women also collected the NSCAA Team Academic Award eight times and 35 players were selected to the CAA’s All-Academic teams.

Neal ascended to Elon’s all-time winningest coach on Aug. 19, 2016, with his 75th victory in a 2-0 home decision over Charleston Southern. He closed with 81 wins at Elon, surpassing Paul Webster’s (1995-2003) 74 victories.

In his final season at Elon in 2017, Neal’s club finished with a 9-6-4 record against stiff competition. Four opponents made the NCAA Tournament and five reached the finals of their conference championships.

Before arriving at Elon, Neal worked as a volunteer assistant coach and assistant coach at UNCW from 2001-07, helping the Seahawks compile a 70-55-8 record. The Seahawks earned the NSCAA Team Academic Award five straight years during Neal’s time with the program.

Neal earlier enjoyed a successful stint as the head men’s soccer coach at Pfeiffer in Misenheimer, N.C. In three seasons at Pfeiffer (1998-2000), Neal piloted the Falcons to a 36-22-4 (.613) ledger and their first-ever NCAA Division II ranking (No. 13).

Neal also served two campaigns as a graduate assistant men’s coach at Augusta State (1996-97) and the Jaguars improved from a 7-8-0 in 1996 to 14-6-0 in 1997.

Neal was as an ODP staff coach and coaching education instructor for the NC Youth Soccer Association during his time at Elon. He also worked with the NSCAA as its state technical director from 2001-08. He was responsible for organizing, advertising and instructing a variety of coaching education courses for thousands of youth, high school and college coaches.

Neal earned his B.A. Degree in Political Science from UNCW in 1995 and M.A. in Education from Augusta State in 1998. He holds the NSCAA “Premier” diploma and a United States Soccer Federation “A” license.

A goalkeeper by trade, Neal played locally for the Wilmington United and Cape Fear SA club teams and was an All-Conference performer at New Hanover High School.

Neal and his wife, Amy, have a daughter, Josi (8), and son, Rex (6).

The Neal Timeline
Student Assistant Coach, UNCW Women’s Soccer (1 season | 1995)
Graduate Assistant Coach, Augusta State Men’s Soccer (2 seasons |1996, 1997)
Head Coach, Pfeiffer Men’s Soccer (3 seasons | 1998, 1999, 2000)
Volunteer Assistant Coach, UNCW Men’s & Women’s Soccer (4 seasons | 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Assistant Coach, UNCW Women’s Soccer (3 seasons | 2005, 2006, 2007)
Head Coach, Elon Women’s Soccer (10 seasons | 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Assistant Coach, Arkansas Women’s Soccer (1 season | 2018)

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