UNCW Head Soccer Coach & Camp Director
In 17 seasons as the head coach of the UNCW men's soccer program, Aidan Heaney has elevated the Seahawks into one of the top programs in the Colonial Athletic Association. As he begins his 18th campaign in Wilmington, the Seahawks' bench boss aims to return the Seahawks to the NCAA Tournament.
Since taking over the Seahawk program in 2001, Heaney has guided UNCW to 152 wins, 13 berths in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and three appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He has also led the Seahawks to their lone CAA Tournament championship in 2009 and three regular season crowns.
The 2017 season provided the Seahawks with their third NCAA Tournament appearance, including their second at-large berth in four years, after reaching the championship of the CAA Tournament. UNCW, which finished with a 12-8-0 overall record, defeated Presbyterian by a 1-0 margin in the first round at home before dropping a 2-1 decision at No. 7 North Carolina. Led by CAA Rookie-of-the-Year and First-Team selection Hjalmar Ekdal, the Seahawks were well-represented on the All-CAA Team with a program-record seven selections.
Under Heaney's guidance, the Seahawks claimed a spot in the 2016 CAA Tournament after finishing in a tie for third place in the league's standings. UNCW closed out the season with an 8-6-3 record, including a 3-2-3 mark in league play, while having six players named to the All-CAA Teams, including First-Team pick Julio Moncada.
In 2015, the Seahawks earned their sixth CAA Tournament appearance in the last eight years while authoring an 8-8-3 record. Senior Colin Bonner completed an outstanding career by becoming the first player in program history to be selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft after being taken in the third round by FC Dallas. Two other players – Michael Mecham and Sean Melvin – also signed professional contracts after the season.
During the season, Heaney also became the program’s all-time leader in wins when he earned his 130th victory as the Seahawks’ bench boss in a 1-0 decision over Northeastern.
Led by Heaney, the Seahawks enjoyed a historic 2014 campaign that featured the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, wins over four nationally-ranked opponents and a CAA regular season title. In addition, the Seahawks spent much of the season in the national rankings.
The Seahawks’ success in 2014 did not go unnoticed. Heaney was named as the CAA and NSCAA Midwest Region Coach-of-the-Year. In addition, his players earned a bevy of awards, including a third team NSCAA All-America distinction for senior Jamie Dell, who joined Bonner and Jacob VanCompernolle on the All-Midwest Region Teams.
The momentum has been building for the Seahawks since a 2013 campaign that saw them finish third in the tough CAA and post road wins over nationally-ranked North Carolina and Duke. UNCW also broke into the national rankings in the second week of the season after winning the Wolstein Soccer Classic with victories against Ohio State and Cincinnati.
UNCW boasted three All-CAA performers in VanCompernolle (first-team), second-teamers Bonner and David Sizemore and All-Rookie selection Kellen Foster.
In 2012, Bonner and Dell were All-CAA performers and finished as the team’s leading scorers. Bonner was an All-Rookie performer while Dell snagged first-team All-CAA honors.
The Seahawks continued to send players on to the professional level in 2011 as Brandon Miller signed with Rochester while Daniel Roberts joined Wilmington, both of the USL Pro Division. Joining Roberts with the Hammerheads was Christian Davidson, who was a four-year starter for the Seahawks at defender. In 2013, standout Shawn Utterson joined the Hammerheads, giving the hometown team three Seahawks on its roster.
Roberts became the first Seahawk to be drafted when his hometown Houston Dynamo picked him in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
Miller, meanwhile, became the third consecutive netminder during Heaney’s reign to play at the professional level, joining Brock Duckworth and Brad Knighton.
Injuries hampered the program in 2010 as the Seahawks finished sixth in the CAA, narrowly missing the conference championship tournament. At times, there were as many as four freshmen in the starting lineup, but UNCW still compiled an impressive 8-6-4 record overall and 4-3-4 in the nation’s sixth-ranked conference.
Three Seahawks were honored on the all-conference teams with Indy Smith making the first team for the third consecutive year and Etienne Boulanger and Duckworth on the third team. Smith was also selected to the South Atlantic’s All-Region squad.
In 2009, just two years after welcoming 16 newcomers to the program, Heaney led the Seahawks to their second straight CAA regular season title, their first league tournament championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament where they reached the second round. The Seahawks edged Northeastern, 1-0, in the finals to earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
UNCW topped the 12-team league with an 8-0-3 record while going 12-2-4 during the regular season. The Seahawks set a school record with eight conference wins and 27 points in the standings. UNCW also set a school-record with a 13-game unbeaten streak that ended with a 2-1 setback at Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
UNCW concluded its season ranked 10th nationally in goals against average (0.64) and checked in as high as 18th in both Soccer America’s and College Soccer News’ final top-25 rankings. The Seahawks were ranked in all four national polls.
Smith, the leader of the Seahawks’ defense, was honored as a Third-Team All-America selection, making him the first Seahawk to attain that distinction.
The 2008 season was a tremendous one for UNCW as the Seahawks captured their first CAA regular season title after topping the standings with 7-4-0 record. Led by CAA Player-of-the-Year Devan Carroll and Smith, who earned the league’s Defender-of-the-Year award, the Seahawks also returned to the national rankings and finished 48th in the RPI. For his efforts, Heaney earned his second Coach-of-the-Year honor.
The success of those two seasons began in 2007 when UNCW’s 16 rookies were the second most in the nation. UNCW, though, closed out the season strong as the Seahawks finished with a pair of impressive wins over James Madison and a road victory at Georgia State. The Seahawks played four teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, dropping a pair of one-goal decisions to Campbell and Liberty.
The Seahawks closed out the 2006 campaign ranked 47th in the RPI and knocked off No. 3 Duke and No. 19 Old Dominion, both on the road. Heaney’s club won two tournaments - the College of Charleston’s Invitational and the UNCW-Jameson Inn Classic - and finished with an 11-7-1 overall record.
In 2005, the Seahawks reached the semifinals of the CAA Tournament for the first time in school history. In a semifinal match at nationally-ranked Old Dominion, UNCW jumped in front of the Monarchs, but was unable to hold onto the lead as ODU notched a pair of goals in the final 17 minutes to advance to the finals.
Heaney, 49, led the Seahawks to a 12-6-2 record in 2004 and was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Coach-of-the-Year by his peers. The Seahawks climbed as high as 25th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll following a 3-2 upset of top-ranked UNC Greensboro.
The Seahawks have made a steady climb to the upper echelon of the CAA under Heaney. In 2003, the Seahawks reached the CAA Tournament following a two-year absence and reached the South Atlantic Regional rankings en route to a 10-7-3 mark.
During Heaney’s tenure, 45 Seahawks have earned All-Colonial Athletic Association honors, including the seven selections last season.
Knighton became the first Seahawk to sign a Major League Soccer contract when he inked a deal with the New England Revolution in the spring of 2007. After spending time with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Philadelphia Union, Knighton rejoined the Revolution and has spent the last three seasons with the team.
While Knighton is the first UNCW player to sign professionally, several others have continued their careers into the professional ranks. Justin Schatz played with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL in 2001. Keith Shevlin followed by signing with Cork City FC of the Eircom League in Ireland and now plays for APAI Leichhardt of the NSW Premier League in Australia. Two-time All-CAA midfielder Chris Murray was signed by the Hammerheads during the spring of 2008.
As a player, Heaney powered Charlotte’s 49ers to their first NCAA Tournament in 1991. He was a two-time team Most Valuable Player and an Academic All-America pick. He still ranks among the 49ers all-time leaders in career shutouts and goals against average.
Heaney then led the Greensboro Dynamo to a pair of national titles in the USISL in 1993 and 1994, being named Atlantic Division Goalkeeper of the Year in 1993 and team MVP and Defensive MVP in 1994.
During a stint with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution in 1996-97, Heaney started 19 games and finished fifth in the league in goals against average. Heaney began his professional career in Germany in 1992 before moving to MLS.
Heaney served as an assistant coach at North Carolina from 1995-96 where he was involved in all phases of the program. National Team member Eddie Pope was a first-team All-ACC selection that season. Joining Pope on the Tar Heel roster during that time were Carey Talley (Real Salt Lake), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City and USA) and Eddie Robinson (US National team).
Heaney moved on to Penn State from 1997-99 and the Nittany Lions finished in the top 20 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He sharpened his coaching and teaching skills under the direction of Barry Gorman, who is considered one of the foremost teachers of the game in the country.
Heaney then moved to Boone, N.C., where he coached two years at Appalachian State before taking over the helm at UNCW. In Boone, Heaney helped the Mountaineers compile a 13-7-0 record in 2000 and advance to the championship game of the Southern Conference tourney.
The Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, native earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Charlotte in 1992. He holds an FA Preliminary Badge, NSCAA Premier Badge and USSF “A” Coaching License. He serves as a Region III Staff Coach and has also worked with North Carolina’s ODP program and with Region Three as a staff coach.
Heaney is married to the former Dr. Stephanie Freccia, of Fayetteville, N.C., and they have three children - Maeve Claire, Millie Marlene and Harry.
Former UNCW men’s soccer standout defender Shaun Utterson, who started 76 games over four seasons for the Seahawks from 2008-11, returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2018. Utterson spent the 2017 season serving as an assistant coach at Appalachian State University.
Utterson also worked as an assistant coach at Wingate for three seasons after playing semi-professionally in the English Conference North and professionally for the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL Pro division.
“I’m delighted that Shaun is returning home,” said Heaney. “We had some really high level applicants in an extensive search, but Shaun was a great choice to fill some pretty big shoes.
“I recruited Shaun here to UNCW, so I know the strengths he brings to the position. He shares the same values we have in our program and will go the extra mile to pursue further success for UNCW and help our players develop. He has high standards for our players and I’m certain they will enjoy working with him and learning from him.”
A Newcastle upon Tyne, England native, Utterson played a key role last season as Appalachian State improved its RPI 39 points against a stronger schedule. The Mountaineers recorded six shutouts and fielded the second-best defense in the Sun Belt Conference, including outstanding statistics for save percentage (.765), goals allowed (1.21) and goals against average (1.12).
Utterson was an assistant coach at NCAA Division II Wingate from 2014-16 and was responsible for the domestic and international recruitment, scouting and analysis of opponents and team training sessions. The Bulldogs won the NCAA Southeast Regional and NCAA Championships in 2016, the SAC Tournament Championship in 2015 and three straight SAC regular season titles from 2014-16.
In 2016, Utterson helped Wingate’s undefeated national champions lead the nation in winning percentage and goals against average as part of a coaching staff that won the NSCAA Southeast Regional and National Staff-of-the-Year awards.
During his time at Wingate, Utterson coached seven all-Americans, 17 All-Region selections, 22 All-SAC selections, three SAC Players-of-the-Year, two NCAA Final Four MVP’s and one National Player-of-the-Year.
Utterson was a four-year starter at UNCW from 2008-11 before playing with the Blyth Spartans in 2012 and the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL Pro division in 2013-14. Utterson made 50 appearances with the Spartans, scoring two goals as a defender. During his time with the Hammerheads, he made 20 starts in his rookie season.
At UNCW, Utterson started 76-of-77 games, scoring three goals with three assists. He helped the defense finish in the Top-10 nationally in goals-against-average in 2009-10 as the Seahawks won the Colonial Athletic Association title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Heaney added, “Shaun was a winner as a player here and played an integral part in our first CAA championship. He’s also been a winner as a coach, helping Wingate win a national title in 2016. He knows our players and our system and has established recruiting contacts in North Carolina and overseas. I’m confident he will help us to continue to attract the highest quality players and people to our program.”
Utterson earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in economics from UNCW in 2011 and completed his Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Wingate in 2016.
Utterson holds English Football Association Level 1 & 2 Coaching Awards and Youth Module 1 qualifications, as well as NSCAA Premier, Advanced National, Director of Coaching and Diversity & inclusion Diplomas.
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