The UNCW women’s soccer program continues to rise in national prominence under the leadership of former collegiate standout and veteran coach Paul Cairney. Now in his 18th season as head coach, Cairney has been with the women’s program since its inception in 1994. He served as associate head coach with the team for two years before taking over the reins of the program in 1996.
A four-year letterman with the UNCW men’s team, Cairney has amassed 165 career victories and posted a winning record in eight of the last 11 seasons as he has developed the Seahawks into one of the Colonial Atheltic Association’s top clubs, His teams have qualified for five of the last seven CAA Championships and have advanced to the championship game in two of those appearances, including the program’s first conference title in 2009.
Cairney’s squad enjoyed another stellar season in 2012, earning Most Improved Team accolades from the NCAA with a 12-7-1 overall record and advancing to the title game of the CAA Championship for the second time in four seasons. Led by First-Team selection Stephanie Rose, who paced the league in goals (14) and points (40), a school-record seven players were honored by the CAA.
In addition to its success on the pitch, the team was also recognized for its work in the community when they were selected as co-recipient of the 2013 John H. Randolph Inspiration Award from the CAA for its work with seven-year old Baylee Adkins and the Friends of Jaclyn organization.
Six players earned All-CAA honors in 2010 when the Seahawks recorded nine or more victories for the 12th time and posted a winning record in league play for the fifth straight season.
The 2009 campaign saw Cairney guide UNCW to its first CAA Tournament championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance as the Seahawks edged Hofstra with a 2-1 overtime victory in the semifinals before knocking off James Madison, 1-0, in the tournament championship.
UNCW finished that season with a 13-8-1 overall record as it equaled the program’s single-season mark for victories for the second time in four campaigns. Cairney’s squad was well recognized for its success as Megan Novak and Stephanie Rose were Second-Team All-CAA selections and Ashley Myers was a Third-Team All-CAA pick. Rose and fellow newcomer Lindsay Henry were also named to the CAA All-Rookie Team, while Novak garnered additional accolades with an All-Region selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Cairney’s team posted its first winning season in 1997 with an 11-9-1 mark, and then pulled off an upset of No. 1 Old Dominion in the 1998 CAA Tournament en route to a 10-10-1 record. The Seahawks reached the CAA semifinals again in 1999 before bowing out to eventual champion William & Mary.
In 2004, UNCW opened the season with nine straight wins, outscoring opponents, 33-9. Senior midfielder Caroline Renkin was named Second-Team All-CAA and Jenny Cauble was selected to the All-Rookie squad. The Seahawks also achieved a milestone for the program when they were ranked in the Top 10 of the Southeast Region by Soccer Buzz. Cauble became the program’s first First-Team All-CAA selection in 2005.
The 2006 squad enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history when the Seahawks finished with a 13-6-0 ledger and posted a second-place finish in the conference at 8-3-0. Cairney shared CAA Coach-of-the-Year honors after helping the Seahawks close out the year ranked 47th among NCAA Division I schools in RPI.
Cairney wasn’t the only Seahawk to be rewarded that season. Cauble and sophomore striker Kelly Renkin each made First-Team All-CAA while junior forward Ashley Church garnered Second-Team honors and freshman goalkeeper Jamie Balzarini collected All-Rookie Team laurels.
The 2008 squad matched the program record for CAA victories in a season with an 8-3 ledger and the Seahawks matched their highest finish in the regular-season standings with a tie for second. The team also established a new mark for shutouts in a season with nine. Cairney was named CAA Coach-of-the-Year for the second time in three seasons, becoming one of just five coaches in league history to earn the distinction on more than one occasion.
Four Seahawks were also acknowledged for their outstanding play. Senior Kelly Renkin became the first player in program history to earn First-Team All-CAA honors three times in her career and the second to be named All-CAA in each of her four seasons. Freshman Erin Pardini was a Second-Team All-CAA selection and senior Brittany Croce earned Third-Team All-CAA distinction. Pardini and fellow freshman Kelly Dodd were named to the CAA All-Rookie Team, while Pardini became the first Freshman All-American in program history when she earned the honor from Soccer Buzz Online Magazine.
Cairney was a two-time All-Conference performer in the backfield during his playing career. He served as team captain for three seasons from 1991-93 and led the team in scoring as a junior. A USSF “A” Licensed coach, Cairney has developed his coaching talents by working at numerous soccer camps and workshops over the last few years. Cairney, who is also a Scottish Football Association licensed coach, was a guest clinician at the NCAA Youth Education through Sports (YES) clinic held in conjunction with the 2003 Women’s Soccer College Cup in Cary, N.C.
A member of the NCYSA (North Carolina Youth Soccer Association) coaching education staff, Cairney helps teach state level coaching courses and serves as a head coach for the North Carolina ODP (Olympic Development Program). He is also a NSCAA Premier Coaching Diploma recipient.
As a student at UNCW, Cairney excelled in the classroom. He earned several academic honors, including CoSIDA/GTE Academic All-American in 1993, the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Young Educator award, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, the Chancellor’s Cup for Academic and Athletic Excellence and the Alumni Achievement Award for Academic Excellence. He graduated with the highest grade point average of UNCW’s Class of ‘93.
“I truly believe that the student in ‘student-athlete’ comes first,” Cairney says. “Success in the classroom, unlike success on the soccer field, is something that my players will take with them when they graduate. Therefore, it is important that academics are a priority from day one through graduation.”
Cairney’s teams have been recognized for their academic achievements by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), receiving the College Team Academic Award in 12 of the last 13 seasons, including each of the previous 10 campaigns. The 2002 and 2008 squads were honored with an NSCAA Ethics award for its disciplined style of play. “We strive to be the best in the classroom and on the field,” Cairney says, “and we structure our program to achieve these goals.”
Cairney’s program picked up an additional honor in 2004 when Renkin was named a finalist for the prestigious John Wooden Trophy by Athletes For A Better World. Cairney and Renkin traveled to Los Angeles, Calif., for a special ceremony to recognize several of the nation’s top student-athletes.
Cairney earned both his Bachelor’s (’93) and Master’s Degree (’95) in English from UNCW and received a postgraduate scholarship provided by the CAA and Richfood, Inc.
Paul and his wife, the former Donalda Kirsop, have three children, Cameron (17), Tess (15) and Lily (11).