Aidan Heaney, a former goalkeeper in Major League Soccer, returns to the UNCW sidelines for his 12th season at the helm of the Seahawk men's soccer program. During his tenure, Heaney has resurrected the program, guiding it to the NCAA tournament and its first Colonial Athletic Association title.
Heaney enters the 2012 season looking to return the Seahawks to the upper echelon of the CAA and bring life to an offense that managed 20 goals in 18 matches in 2011. In 2011, seniors Brandon Miller and Daniel Roberts were honored as All-CAA players with Miller being named to the first team and Roberts second team.
The Seahawks would continue to send players on to the professional level as Miller signed with Rochester and Roberts with 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.
Roberts became the first Seahawk to be drafted when his hometown Houston Dynamo selected him in the MLS's supplemental draft.
Miller, meanwhile, became the third consecutive keeper 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 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 Brock 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, Aidan Heaney led the Seahawks to their second straight conference regular season title, their first Colonial Athletic Association championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament where they reached 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 entering the conference tournament. 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.
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.
Indy Smith, the back-bone of the Seahawks defense was honored as a third-team All-America selection, the first Seahawk to attain that distinction.
The 2008 season was a tremendous one for UNCW as it captured its first regular season title after topping the standings with 7-4 record. Led by CAA Player-of-the-Year Devan Carroll and CAA Defender-of-the-Year Indy Smith, 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 the last two season 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 1-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.
During Heaney's tenure, 15 Seahawks have earned All-Colonial honors, including three in 2008, when Brian Harrison joined Carroll and Smith on the all-conference squads by earning a spot on the All-Rookie squad.
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.He now plays for the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps following a brief stay with the Philadelphia Union.
In addition to Knighton's signing with the New England Revolution, three other former charges have gone on to play professionally following their careers in Heaney's program. 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 captains the Marconi Stallions in Australia. Two-time All-CAA midfielder Chris Murray was signed by the Hammerheads during the spring of 2008.
In 2005, the Seahawks reached the semifinals of the CAA Tournament for the first time in school history. In a quarterfinal 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 for the win to advance to the finals.
Under the direction of Heaney, UNCW has earned a reputation as a giant-killer following wins over nationally-ranked teams. In 2005, UNCW vaulted past #1 ranked and undefeated UNC Greensboro, 3-2. It marked the second straight season UNCW edged its in-state rival. In 2004, the Seahawks fashioned a 2-1-2 mark against nationally-ranked opposition with wins over top-ranked UNCG and 12th-ranked Old Dominion. The Seahawks added draws against No. 9 UNC Chapel Hill and No. 16 VCU. The only loss was a 2-1 setback to eighth-ranked William & Mary.
Heaney, 42, 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.
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-American. He still holds the record for 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, finishing 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 UNC Chapel Hill 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 span were Carey Talley (Real Salt Lake), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City) and Eddie Robinson (US National team).
He 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. Heaney 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 UNC 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.
Heaney is married to the former Dr. Stephanie Freccia, of Fayetteville, N.C., and they have two daughters - Maeve Claire (4) and Millie Marlene (2) and a newborn son, Harrison James.