By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
The Colonels soccer team will have a new coach on the bench this season, and only the second coach since its inception in 2005.
Mellisa Barnes was introduced Wednesday as the Colonels new head coach.
She replaces Lindsey Basalega, the only coach in program history, who took a job at Bowling Green after last season.
Barnes, a Prospect Ky. native comes to EKU from UNC Wilmington where she served as an assistant from 2008-2012. She was also an assistant at Furman University, her alma matter, from 2005-2007.
“Melissa personifies the qualities we want in the leader of our women’s soccer program,” Acting Director of Athletics Simon Gray said. “She will recruit and develop elite student-athletes who are positive representatives of our campus and our community. Academic success culminating in graduation is a priority for Melissa and our athletics department. She also has a proven record of winning championships. Melissa is a person of integrity focused on providing an inspirational student-athlete experience.”
Barnes played a key role in helping build UNCW’s women’s soccer program into one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In 2009, UNCW went 13-8-1 and reached as high as No. 3 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Mid-Atlantic Region rankings before winning the CAA Tournament and earning the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, the Seahawks compiled a record of 12-7-3 and fell just short of a second NCAA appearance, losing to Hofstra, 2-1, in double overtime in the CAA title game.
UNCW won 49 games during Barnes time with the team and coached 28 All-CAA performers, eight CAA All-Tournament selections and one CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
The UNCW soccer team was also very successful in the classroom as well.
The Seahawks won an NSCAA College Team Academic Award all five years of her tenure and posted a team GPA of 3.40 or higher from 2010-12.
Barnes said being able to build something similar at EKU, in her home state, was what attracted her to EKU.
“I’m from Kentucky and the fact that soccer is growing so much really excites me. I had to go out of state to play my college soccer so giving that opportunity to instate players is really exciting and I would love to do that,” Barnes said. “When I met with the current players on the team I saw that they are hungry to win an OVC championship. That is something that I would love to put them in a position to do.”
While at Furman, Barnes served as assistant coach/goalkeepers coach and helped guide the Paladins to a 20-6-4 Southern Conference record and a spot in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. She also mentored 17 All-SoCon performers during that two-year period.
Barnes played high school soccer at South Oldham High School and as goalkeeper, helped lead the team to Kentucky state titles in 1995 and 1996. She holds the KHSAA career shutouts record with 56.
She was a four-year starter at goalkeeper for Furman from 1998-2001, earning All-SoCon honors three of those seasons and posting the 10th-best Goals Against Average (0.67) in the country as a sophomore in 1999. During her four years in the net at Furman, the Paladins compiled a record of 66-21-1, won three SoCon titles and made two NCAA Tournament appearances.
Barnes received a bachelor’s degree from Furman in 2002 and earned a master’s degree from East Carolina University in 2010.
EKU players say they are excited about Barnes’ arrival and look forward to playing for her.
“As a team we are excited and motivated to play for a new coach who is equally driven to reach our ultimate goals of playing in the NCAA tournament,” senior Brittany Normady said.
Barnes is taking over a team that has continually improved since it inagural season in 2005 when they won only one game.
The Colonels went 10-7-3 in 2012, were undefeated at home (8-0-1) and earned their fifth consecutive berth in the OVC Tournament, the longest active postseason streak in the league.
Senior Nikki Donnely said she was impressed with Barnes the first time they talked and thinks she can take the team to the next level.
“I’m extremely excited to have Melissa be a part of our program and our family,” Donnelly said. “When I met her it was obvious that she had a great personality, but still expected a lot out of us. Our next step is to win the OVC championship and she’s very aware of that and ready to help us get to that point.”
Barnes said fans will see an intertaining style of soccer on the field this fall and a team that competes very hard.
“We will play varying styles, whatever it takes to win. I hope to educate the players enough so that they can play a direct style if needed or an indirect style,” Barnes said. “We will work very hard when we are defending and very hard when we are attacking. It will be exciting to watch this team.”
Barnes didn’t wait long to get started, holding her first practice with the team Thursday and she liked what she saw.
“I saw a lot of things we could work on, but the tools are definitely there to be successful,” Barnes said.