A lot of excitement surrounds the Duke women’s soccer program as head coach Robbie Church enters his 15th season with the Blue Devils. Church returns nine starters, 19 letterwinners and welcomes one of the top recruiting classes in the nation in 2015.
Church looks to continue the success Duke has had over the last 12 years with 150 wins, 11 NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the NCAA College Cup in 2011.
After dealing with the loss of a key senior class and many newcomers on the roster, the Blue Devils struggled in 2014 posting an 8-9-1 overall record and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2002 campaign. But many of those student-athletes return after gaining great experiences and are motivated to excel in 2015.
Dealing with season-ending knee injuries to starters Gilda Doria and Cassie Pecht, the Blue Devils posted a 9-9-6 overall record in 2013, but played their best soccer at the end. Duke advanced to the Elite Eight for a school-record third straight year, before falling to top-seeded Virginia Tech.
In 2012, Duke notched a 15-6-2 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. The Blue Devils registered a school-record 207 points, school-record 77 assists and was only two goals away from matching the single-season mark of 67.
The Blue Devils totaled one of the best seasons in Duke history in 2011 with a school-record 22 victories, an ACC regular season title with an 8-1 record, a school-record 16 shutouts and a trip to the NCAA College Cup. Duke registered a 4-1 win over Wake Forest in the semifinals of the NCAA College Cup before falling,1-0, to Stanford in the national championship match. For his efforts, Church was named the Soccer America National Coach of the Year and ACC Coach of the Year.
In 2010, Duke advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, following upset victories against California and fifth-ranked Florida. The Blue Devils featured a very young lineup that included its top three scorers being freshmen -- Mollie Pathman, Laura Weinberg and Kaitlyn Kerr. Duke turned in an 11-8-4 overall mark.
In 2009, Duke registered an 8-9-4 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament first round, while dealing with numerous injuries all season long. Duke started five freshmen to go along with senior standouts Elisabeth Redmond and KayAnne Gummersall. The two All-ACC selections combined for 14 goals and 16 assists on the year to lead the Blue Devils.
In 2008, Duke advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for the second straight year, while totaling a 15-6-3 overall ledger. Duke scored 54 goals and registered a school record-tying 13 shutouts on the season. In the ACC, Duke finished fifth with a 4-3-3 record.
Duke’s tandem of Elisabeth Redmond and KayAnne Gummersall teamed together to notch 27 goals, which was the most in school history for two players in a single season.
In 2007, Duke garnered a 10-6-7 overall and 3-3-4 ACC records. The Blue Devils knocked off 21st-ranked South Carolina, 13th-ranked Georgia and Indiana on the road to advance to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals before falling to 12th-ranked Notre Dame, 3-2, in South Bend, Ind.
For the second straight season in 2007, Duke registered eight one-goal contests and a total of seven ties, but put it all together when it counted in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils were ranked as high as 10th nationally during the season. Junior Lorraine Quinn garnered All-America accolades and then went on to help the United States U-23 National Team claim the Nordic Cup title over the summer.
The 2006 season was one of close matches as well with the Blue Devils registering eight one-goal games and four ties. One of the major highlights was knocking off third-ranked Florida State on senior day with a 3-1 victory and senior Rebecca Moros earning All-America accolades.
In 2005, the Blue Devils were ranked as high as sixth in the nation and knocked off top-ranked North Carolina on its home field with a 2-1 victory in Chapel Hill. The win was only the second in school history over the Tar Heels. Senior defender Carolyn Ford went on to be selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as Duke registered 11 shutouts.
In 2004, the Blue Devils collected a 15-8 overall and 5-4 ACC mark. Church led Duke to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and the five league victories was the most since 1997. For his efforts, Church was named NSCAA/adidas South Region Coach of the Year.
Church, who replaced former head coach Bill Hempen in 2001, is only the second coach in Duke’s 27-year history. Over the past numerous years, Church has brought in recruiting classes rated in the top 25 by Soccerbuzz.com and TopDrawerSoccer.com - third in 2006, seventh in 2002, eighth in 2003 and 2007, 20th in 2004 and 22nd in 2008. The 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 classes were listed as one of the top in the nation as well, including the No. 2 class in 2014 and No. 6 class in 2015 by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Church earned his 100th career victory as a women’s head coach against Florida International on Sept. 20, 2002, and collected his 200th career victory (men and women) on Sept. 26, 2003, against Davidson. With a 2-1 win over California in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Church posted his 200th win as a women’s head coach.
In 2003, he guided the Blue Devils to 14 victories, which equaled the most wins for Duke since 1994, and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Church did all of this with only three seniors, as 16 of 22 letterwinners were underclassmen. The Blue Devils finished with a 4-3 record in the ACC, which tied for third place, and were ranked as high as sixth nationally.
Before arriving at Duke, Church compiled a 21-19-1 record in two seasons as head coach at Vanderbilt. He led the Commodores to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament semifinals in each of his two seasons.
In 1994, Church became the first head coach at UNC Charlotte, a position he held until 1998. While at Charlotte, he guided the 49ers to a 66-30-10 mark in five seasons, including the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 1998 and three Conference USA titles.
Church coached men’s college teams at Lynn University (1990), East Carolina (1982-84) and Belmont Abbey (1985-89), where he also served as associate athletic director.
Church began his career as a head coach at East Carolina from 1982-84. In 1984, he was a men’s assistant coach at Duke under John Rennie. After a one-year stint with the Blue Devils, Church accepted the head coach and associate athletic director position at Belmont Abbey.
Over the next five years, he led the Crusaders to a 69-35-1 record, while graduating 90 percent of his players. Included in that stretch were two Carolinas Conference Championships and an NAIA National Tournament appearance in 1989.
Church moved on to the College of Boca Raton, now Lynn University, in 1990, leading the men’s team to a 17-4-2 mark. In one season, he guided Boca Raton to the District 25 Championship and the NAIA national finals.
Throughout his 29 years as a college head coach, Church has amassed a record of 350-219-51. He was recognized as the Carolinas Conference and NAIA Coach of the Year in 1989, the NSCAA/adidas South Region Coach of the Year in 2004, the Conference USA Coach of the Year in 1997, the Soccer America National Coach of the Year in 2011, the Southeast Region Coach of the Year in 2011 and the ACC Coach of the Year in 2011. In addition, Church was the NAIA South Region Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1989. He was also tabbed the NAIA District 26 Coach of the Year in 1988 and NAIA District 25 Coach of the Year in 1990.
In 1991, Church left the college ranks to become the head men’s and women’s soccer coach at Charlotte Country Day School. In three seasons at the helm of the men’s program, Church compiled a 40-22-9 record, including a state finals appearance in 1993. The women’s program was equally successful during his two seasons as head coach, tallying a 24-7-3 mark and winning the 1992 state championship.
A four-year starter at Pfeiffer College, Church was his team’s leading scorer and MVP as a senior. He was selected NAIA All-South Region, was an All-Conference performer, and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He graduated from Pfeiffer with a bachelor of arts degree in health and physical education in 1981. Church went on to earn his master’s degree in health and physical education from the University of South Carolina in 1985.
Church and his wife, the former Linda Atkins, have two children, Ashley (28) and Kyle (26). Ashley is a 2008 graduate of UNC Wilmington and was a four-year letterwinner on the women’s soccer team, Kyle is a 2010 graduate of Charlotte and was a four-year letterwinner on the men’s basketball squad. The Church family resides in Durham.
COACHING EXPERIENCE Women’s Head Coach Duke (2001-present) Vanderbilt (1999-2000) Charlotte (1994-98)
Men’s Head Coach Lynn (1990) Belmont Abbey (1985-89) East Carolina (1982-83)
Assistant Coach Duke (1984 - men)
OTHER AFFILIATIONS North Carolina Youth Soccer State Select, Head-Women’s; Former Head Coach of the Region III ODP; Provide clinics for Durham Girls Soccer League; Premier NSCAA license; USSF “B” License
COACHING HONORS NAIA National Coach of the Year (1989), Carolinas Conference Coach of the Year (1989), Conference USA Coach of the Year (1997), NSCAA/adidas South Region Coach of the Year (2004), Soccer America National Coach of the Year (2011), Southeast Regional Coach of the Year (2011), ACC Coach of the Year (2011)