CHRIS NEAL - Head Coach / Camp Director:
As the winningest coach in program history, head coach Chris Neal begins his 10th season at Elon and fourth season as part of a highly competitive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2017. Under Neal’s guidance, the Phoenix has shown substantial improvement after three seasons as part of the CAA and has been a perennial conference contender since his arrival.
Neal’s impact on the program has been evident during his tenure at Elon both on the field and in the classroom, as Phoenix student-athletes have consistently earned numerous athletic and academic achievements.
Under Neal’s guidance, a total of 21 student-athletes have earned all-league honors over the last nine seasons, while Elon has earned the NSCAA Team Academic Award in nearly every season under Neal. In addition, a total of 35 players have been named to the conference’s All-Academic Teams since Neal’s arrival. Elon has posted a winning season in five of Neal’s nine seasons.
On August 19, 2016, Neal became the program's all-time winningest coach, earning his 75th victory at Elon in a 2-0 victory over Charleston Southern at Rudd Field. He currently has 81 wins in his coaching career at Elon as he surpassed Paul Webster's (1995-2003) 74 victories.
The Phoenix finished the 2016 campaign with a 7-9-3 overall mark against a difficult schedule which included three opponents that made the NCAA Championships and five that at least made the finals of their respective conference championships. The program continued its substantial improvement in the CAA, doubling their point total in conference play from 2015 and nearly tripling their total from the program's inaugural CAA season in 2014. Elon had three players receive CAA postseason honors, which included the program's first All-CAA First Team selection in junior center back Kendall Ballotti. Taylor Paradoski earned CAA All-Rookie Team honors, Neal's third consecutive All-Rookie Team selection, and senior Alexis de Groot earned a spot on the All-Academic team. The maroon and gold had two freshmen, goalkeeper Katelyn Fowler and Paradoski, earn conference Rookie of the Week awards.
The Phoenix improved its play defensively in 2016 forcing a total of six overtime games, including four during the conference season. Elon also posted three CAA shutouts, which ranked second in the league. In addition to strong play from the back line, Fowler finished second in the CAA in goals against average (0.78) in five games played.
During the 2015 season, which saw a conference record four CAA teams make the prestigious NCAA Tournament, the Phoenix showed significant improvement in Elon’s second season in the league. Elon finished with a 9-8-2 overall record after recording a 5-12 record overall in 2014. The 7-1-1 start to the 2015 season is the best start for the program in the Division I era for the first nine games of the season. The previous best record in the first nine games was a 6-1-2 start in 2013. The Phoenix had six wins in 2009 and 2010, starting those seasons with a 6-2-1 record in the first nine games. Elon's final national ranking in the Bennett Rankings increased by over 70 spots in comparison to the 2014 season and the team's RPI soared over 40 spots as well in 2015. Offensively, Elon scored 12 more goals, conceded 15 less goals, had a goal differential swing of 27 goals, and created 110 more shots created compared to the 2014 season.
Neal helped the maroon and gold to one of its best seasons in program history in 2013, as the Phoenix finished the year with a 13-3-6 record and its first ever appearance in the Southern Conference Championship match. Elon’s 13 wins marked the most during the school’s Division I era, while also marking the team’s fifth-straight winning season. The Phoenix also entered the NSCAA Southeast Regional rankings for the first time in school history, finishing the season ranked 10th among ACC powers such as Virginia, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech Notre Dame, Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Maryland. Elon scored in every contest in 2013, another program first, netting a total of 56 goals (third nationally) in 22 matches. Elon had five players garner all-league accolades, including 2013 Southern Conference Player of the Year, Nicole Dennion. As only a sophomore, Dennion set Elon’s Division I single-season goals record with 15. Elon’s RPI soared as high as 74th (out of 327 teams) in 2013 as well. Elon’s senior class finished the 2013 season with 40 wins, the most by a senior class during Elon’s Division I era. Neal ended the year with a career record of 60-41-22.
Despite several key injuries throughout the season, Neal was named the 2012 Southern Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Phoenix to the Southern Conference Championship semifinals. Elon posted a total of eight shutouts in 2012, one shy of the program's record at the Division I level. Neal helped Shannon Foley earn All-SoCon honors her senior season as well. Under Neal, Elon had a total of six players earn SoCon All-Academic accolades in the fall.
Neal led the Phoenix to another successful season in 2011, as the team finished the regular season with a 6-3-2 record in Southern Conference action to mark Elon's third-straight winning season in the SoCon. The Phoenix finished the 2011 season with an RPI of 138 (out of 322 teams), placing Elon well into the top half of Division I. Since 2008, the program’s RPI has improved over 100 spots. Among the team’s wins was a 1-0 shutout over instate rival UNCG on Oct. 26 in Greensboro, marking the program’s first-ever win over the Spartans in 17 matches (0-16 in previous games). The Phoenix also scored a Southern Conference single-game-high eight goals on Sept. 26 against league-foe Chattanooga. Under Neal's tutelage, the Phoenix won several awards in 2011. Andrea Keller earned preseason all-conference honors and was a second-team all-conference selection at the end of the season with teammate Olivia Mackey. Bethany Houpt earned Southern Conference Player of the Week nods in 2011 after leading the Phoenix to a 2-0 win over High Point with a pair of goals.
In 2010, Neal led Elon to a 12-8-1 record, including a 6-5 record in league play, marking the first time the team has won 12 games and finished with a winning record in league play in back-to-back seasons since joining Division I. Elon’s 12 wins in 2010 set the school record for victories over NCAA Division I opponents, while the program’s RPI of 131 out of 322 teams has rose over 100 spots from three seasons prior. In addition, Neal coached Elon to its first-ever appearance in the Southern Conference Tournament in 2010, where the team went on the road in the first round and registered a 1-0 shutout over College of Charleston. Under Neal’s tutelage, Elon had two All-SoCon selections in 2010, as Brittany Hallberg earned second-team honors, while Chelsey Stark was named to the All-Freshman team. The Phoenix also performed well in the classroom, as the NSCAA named Elon one of 630 recipients of the NSCAA Team Academic Award for the 2009-10 academic year. Elon was one of just 125 institutions nationally to have both its men's and women's programs earn the honor in 2010.
In Neal’s second season at the helm in 2009, the Phoenix went 12-5-2, setting a school record for the most wins since moving to the NCAA Division I ranks in 1999. Elon’s 7-3-1 SoCon mark was its best-ever league showing and its first winning record since joining the conference in 2003. After being picked to finish seventh in the SoCon in the preseason poll, the Phoenix played its final game of the regular season for the league crown. The squad also set a record with four all-conference selections, including the first-ever first-team All-SoCon pick. Elon’s national ranking (RPI) also continued to rise in 2009 as the Phoenix moved to 134th out of 322 teams, placing it in the top half of all NCAA Division I squads. The team received the NSCAA Silver Star ETHICS award for sportsmanship based upon yellow and red card accumulation. Elon received only four yellow cards and no red cards in 2009.
In Neal’s first season at Elon, the Phoenix posted an 8-8-3 mark, the team’s first .500 or better record since the 1999 season. Elon also earned its first-ever win against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent with a 1-0 road victory over Maryland. Elon’s end-of-season RPI experienced a significant leap as well, moving up 55 spots from the end of the 2007 season. The Phoenix also moved up in the highly competitive Southern Conference regular-season standings, earning a 7th place finish out of 12 teams. Three players were named to all-conference teams as well. Elon led the nation in least amount of yellow cards (3) and red cards (0), earning the NSCAA Silver Star ETHICS award. In addition, the team was touted for excellence in the classroom, receiving the NSCAA Team Academic award for carrying a team GPA of 3.0 or better.
Prior to arriving at Elon, Neal helped his alma mater, UNC Wilmington, to a record of 70-55-8 (.556) from 2001-07. Just as strong off the field, the Seahawks earned the NSCAA Team Academic Award for five consecutive campaigns during Neal’s time with the program.
Before returning to his alma mater in 2001, Neal enjoyed a successful stint as the head men’s soccer coach at Pfeiffer University. In his three seasons at Pfeiffer (1998-2000), Neal directed the Falcons to a 36-22-4 (.613) ledger and their first-ever NCAA Division II ranking at 13th in the country.
Neal also served two campaigns as an assistant men’s soccer coach at Augusta State (1996-97), where he helped the Jaguars improve from a 7-8 record in 1996 to a 14-6 slate in 1997.
In addition to his responsibilities at Elon, Neal currently serves as an ODP staff coach and coaching education instructor for the NC Youth Soccer Association. Neal served the NSCAA as its state technical director from 2001-08. In these roles with NCYSA and the NSCA, Neal has been responsible for organizing, advertising and instructing a variety of coaching education courses for thousands of youth, high school and college coaches. Neal is a USSF April Heinrichs Scholarship recipient, recognizing him for making a positive impact on the sport of women’s soccer.
The UNCW graduate earned his bachelor of arts degree as a political science major and a Spanish minor in 1995 and his master of education degree in education administration and supervision at Augusta State University in 1998. He holds the National Soccer Coaches Association of America “Premier” diploma and the United States Soccer Federation “A” license.
During his senior year of high school and freshman year of college, a series of knee injuries sidelined Neal’s competitive playing days. As a goalkeeper, Neal was a youth product of the Wilmington United and Cape Fear SA competitive club teams, as well as New Hanover High School where he earned all-conference honors.
Neal and his wife, Amy, reside in Gibsonville with their daughter, Josilyn, and son, Rex.