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Neil Jones, who spent three seasons as the associate head coach at Northwestern University, is set to begin his second season as the head coach of the Loyola University Chicago men's soccer program. Jones was named to his current position on December 20, 2012. In addition to helping the Wildcats to back-to-back Big Ten Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances during his stay in Evanston, Ill., the Auckland, New Zealand native helped UC Santa Barbara to the 2006 national championship as an assistant coach for the Gauchos.
"I am excited to welcome Neil and his wife, Stephanie, to the Loyola family," Loyola Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun said. "Neil stood out from the rest of our candidates because of his success both as a coach and as a player. He truly cares about student-athletes and is committed to developing young men who are tremendous representatives of Loyola University."
Jones helped guide the Ramblers to a fifth-place finish and a berth in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament during his first season as the bench boss in Rogers Park. The team finished with a final mark of 6-11-2 but were able to collect victories in its final two conference contests to finish the season on an upswing. The 2013 campaign also saw Brian Bement and Ryan Howe receive All-Missouri Valley Conference accolades. Bement became the focal point of Jones' attack, netting a team-high eight goals, while Howe was a fixture in the Rambler lineup, starting in 16 of the 17 games that he saw action in.
Jones spent three years as head coach Tim Lenahan's right-hand man at Northwestern and helped the Wildcats to a pair of NCAA appearances, including a run to the Sweet Sixteen this fall. During his three seasons on Lenahan's staff at Northwestern, the Wildcats compiled a 32-19-11 (.605) record, posted an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 1000, and earned a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Academic Team for having a team grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
"I would like to thank Dr. Calhoun, Dr. Tom Hitcho and Dr. Pat Kraft for giving me the opportunity to be the next head men's soccer coach at Loyola University Chicago," Jones said. "I am very excited to be a part of the athletics department and University with all of the resources and energy being invested. I look forward to competing for Missouri Valley Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances on a consistent basis, as well as working with the student-athletes on a daily basis to not only make them better soccer players, but also aid in their development as men."
Prior to his arrival in the Midwest, Jones spent four years as an assistant men's soccer coach at his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, where he helped the Gauchos win 68 percent (57-23-12) of their matches and advance to four NCAA Tournaments.
As a student-athlete at UCSB, Jones was a four-year starter and two-time team captain for a program that finished as the 2004 NCAA Runner-Up after falling to Indiana University on penalty kicks. A two-time All-Big West Conference selection, the center back/striker, who racked up 28 goals and 16 assists in his career, was a Academic All-American and was tabbed 2003 Big West Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"This is a great hire for Loyola University and I am sure that their players and administration there will soon learn what our players know - that coach Jones is passionate about developing a successful program on the field, successful student-athletes in the classroom, and successful people in life," Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan said. "I can't thank Neil enough for his contributions to Northwestern soccer. Not only have we experienced unprecedented success with two Big Ten championships and a Big Ten Tournament title during his three years here, but his impact in developing our fan base and the marketing of the program to the Chicagoland community has been phenomenal. It's a big loss for us at Northwestern, but I'm very happy for Neil."
A 2004 graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Jones also owns a master's degree from UCSB. He holds an "A" license from the United State Soccer Federation (USSF).