Young coach arrives ahead of schedule

Roseville graduate Melissa Phillips, 23, takes over women's soccer program at CSU Bakersfield
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Melissa Phillips recently found an old assignment from 2005 — her senior year at Roseville High School.

An English teacher had the class assemble a five-year plan. Phillips’ vision included landing a job as college soccer coach — a little beyond that five-year window.

“So, this was a goal of mine. Everything almost ticked off,” she said Wednesday. “I didn’t imagine it would happen when I was 23.”

Well, it did. Phillips last Saturday was named head coach of the women’s soccer program at Cal State Bakersfield.

Phillips was a three-time All-Sierra Foothill League player, two-time team captain and two-time team MVP at Roseville, and she didn’t stop after landing at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.

A forward for the Tigers and defender for Placer United in club soccer, Phillips was a defensive center/midfielder and center/defender at Stanislaus. By the time she earned her bachelors degree in physical education and kinesiology in 2009, Phillips was a three-time California Collegiate Athletic Association All-Academic Award winner, Daktronics/CoSIDA first-team All-West Region and NSCAA/adidas second-team All-West Region.

Phillips is scheduled to complete her masters in curriculum and instruction at the end of May and will earn her national C license — recognized by U.S. Soccer — in June.

“It became apparent throughout this spring that Melissa is mature beyond her years,” said CSU Bakersfield Athletic Director Jeff Konya, who announced the hiring. “Yes, she is young, but she brings a lot to the table. Through Melissa’s guidance, the team has performed well on the field and … strengthened its academic credentials as well.”

Phillips was recruited to Stanislaus by Nicole Van Dyke who then, as Phillips put it, “snagged me” as a graduate assistant at Bakersfield two years ago. Phillips was serving as the interim head coach and succeeds Van Dyke, who left to become an assistant coach at Stanford.

“I always had a great relationship with her,” Phillips said of Van Dyke. “She prepared me to step into this role and not be overwhelmed.”

In Phillips’ freshman year at Stanislaus, Van Dyke started her at least one game at every position except goalkeeper.

“The versatility side of that was great because it allows you to understand all aspects of the game,” Phillips said.

While at Stanislaus, Phillips juggled assistant coaching stints on local high school and club teams with college and her own soccer. She also tried out for the Boston Breakers and Chicago Red Stars of Women’s Professional Soccer.

Phillips recorded a “humbling” first victory as an NCAA Division I head coach last Saturday — a 2-1 win over Cal Poly in a spring game. Currently, she’s recruiting, maintaining what Van Dyke built and moving forward.

Oh, and there’s the presentation of Phillips’ thesis at the end of May, a subject that was allowed by the department chair — on coaching female athletes.