Head Women's Soccer Coach
A seasoned coach with over two decades of success at both the collegiate and club levels, Neil Payne enters his first season as Elon's head women's soccer coach in 2018. Payne was named the leader of the Phoenix program on Feb. 24, 2018.
Payne spent three seasons at Texas Tech as the associate head coach before coming to Elon, playing an integral part in back-to-back NCAA bids, highlighted by a banner season that saw the Red Raiders win their first Big 12 Championship. Texas Tech earned top-25 rankings twice over the last three seasons and 10 players earned All-Big 12 distinction. Over three years, Texas Tech had 42 players earn Academic All-Big 12 honors, as well.
Prior to his tenure at Texas Tech, Payne spent 13 years as the Technical Director for Real Colorado, one of the premier girls youth soccer clubs in the country. During his tenure in Colorado, Payne helped produce hundreds of collegiate players. Under Payne's leadership, Real's impressive player development record also involved 38 players gaining U.S. Youth National Team experience including standout Mallory Pugh (U.S. Women's National Team).
In Payne's final nine years with Real Colorado, he won the United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) National Title and eight of his teams qualified for the national finals in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and U.S. Soccer Academy League. The Real Colorado girls program earned three top 10 national rankings, including No. 5 in the ECNL in 2014. The club sent over 450 players to the college level during his tenure while winning 44 state cups and seven regional championships.
Prior to his time at Real Colorado, Payne also spent four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers claimed back-to-back Big South regular season titles in his final two years thanks to a 23-9-2 record during that span.
Payne remains one of the top players in Coastal Carolina history (1992-95) as his 123 career points ranks third all-time in the school record book, while his 46 goals and 31 assists both stand at fourth. He made two NCAA appearances, was an All-American candidate and a two-time First Team South Region honoree. Payne was captain of the Chanticleers for three years of his tenure, earning Big South MVP in 1995 on their way to the conference title. He graduated from Coastal Carolina in 1996 with a degree in business management.
From 1996-98, Payne was a professional soccer player in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and captained the team to a league championship in 1997.
Payne holds a USSF A-Senior License.
Neil Payne Coaching Experience
2018 - Elon University, Head Coach
2015-17 - Texas Tech, Associate Head Coach
2002-15 - Real Colorado, Technical Director
2000-02 - Raleigh Express (USL-A League), Assistant Coach
1998-00 - Coastal Carolina, Assistant Coach
Assistant Women's Soccer Coach
Paul Babba begins his first season as an assistant coach with the Elon Phoenix women's soccer coaching staff in 2018. He brings seven years of collegiate head coaching experience and over 10 seasons of coaching at the collegiate level overall to the Phoenix staff.
Babba joins the program after spending the last two seasons as the head coach of Bryan College women's soccer in Dayton, Tenn. During his time at Bryan College, Babba was recognized for his success and was named the 2017 Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after guiding Bryan to its winningest season in recorded history. The Lions finished with a 12-7 overall mark, which included a 9-2 record in AAC action, and the program also won its first-ever regular season conference title. Bryan also received votes in the NAIA National Poll at the end of the 2017 season.
Under Babba’s watch, four players earned major awards from the AAC and senior standout Ruth Rosales became the program’s first NSCAA All-American honorable mention, while earning AAC Offensive Player of the Year accolades. Six Bryan College players collected All-AAC recognition and six others were rewarded with All-Academic Team accolades.
In his season debut with Bryan College in 2016, Babba helped the Lions to a 10-10-2 overall mark, which at the time was the winningest season in recorded history. The team kept the momentum alive as the year came to a close, knocking off top-seeded teams in the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament, which led to an appearance in the AAC Conference Championship match.
The Numan, Nigeria native, came to Bryan after spending five years as the head coach at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. While at Delta State, Babba played an integral part in leading the Lady Statesmen to their lowest goals against average in the history of the program. He also emphasized the pursuit of excellence off the field as the Lady Statesmen were a fixture in DSU's community service competition, The Champs Cup, where they were recognized for their academic commitments.
Prior to his time at Delta State, Babba served for four seasons as the assistant coach to head coach Darryl Longabaugh at Mississippi College. He spent the majority of the time focusing on the forwards and midfielders. He helped guide the Lady Choctaws in many successful seasons, producing a great amount of All-ASC performers. Babba also served as a club coach with the Mississippi Fire Juniors and had also previously held the post of director of coaching at the Brandon Soccer League.
Prior to his coaching career, Babba was a four-year starter at Belhaven College he finished his career as the Blazer's second all-time leading scorer with 37 total goals. He also compiled 18 assists for 92 total points during his time at Belhaven College.
His outstanding collegiate career opened the door for Babba to compete at the next level, playing two seasons with Mississippi Brilla F.C., a team in the Professional Development League (PDL).
While at Belhaven College, he studied sports administration, receiving his bachelor's degree in 2007. He continued his education, receiving his master's in intercollegiate athletic administration from Mississippi College in 2010.
He holds a USSF A-Senior License and a National Youth License. Babba and his wife Laura have three children, Noah, Micah and Hannah.