The first thing you see when you walk into the office of Head Women’s Soccer Coach Davy Phillips is his windowsill. Adorned with plaques, trophies, and certificates, this collection of awards proves one thing: The women’s soccer program at Baker University has a longstanding tradition of winning. But the 2016 season was one for the record books, with its highest ranking at the end of the season and a fantastic run to the NAIA Fab Four in Orange Beach, Alabama. It’s undeniable that the impression Phillips and these women leave on the program will not be forgotten.
A Deep Run
The road to Alabama was long. With the goal of a national championship in mind, the women started the season with high expectations. After a couple of tough matchups and a few heartbreaking losses early in the season, the women lost a bit of swagger, the moxie needed to bring home a championship. But, with a few key wins came a boost in confidence, and it became clear to all those who watched: These women were going to Alabama.
“I think for the most part they had a deep belief they could win a national championship from day one,” Phillips said. “And so as soon as their confidence was restored through results, we knew it was going to be a special year. It’s a special group.”
The key to this exciting year was a strong group of seniors and an even stronger second team, dedicated to pushing and bettering the program. Since starting together as freshmen, the senior class has won more games each year, finally finishing this season with 17 wins—the program’s highest record for a season. And to top it off, the women finished their incredible season ranked third in the NAIA, the highest ranking in team history.
“To be able to make a deep run into it validated some of what they thought of themselves and what they thought they deserved through their work,” Phillips said. “It’s the best team in Baker women’s soccer history. I don’t think there’s any denying that.”
Senior Krista Hooper had no doubt that the team would make it this far. She believes that through hard work and impressive teamwork and coaching, her team was able to make history.
“[Coach Phillips] taught us a lot and really pushed us to constantly work harder than we thought we could, so I knew coming into the season that we had a lot of potential to really make it far,” Hooper said. “The team vibe this year was incredible; it was so much fun to be a part of a team that not only achieved success, but also enjoyed every second of it.”
A Coach’s Journey
Years before he even dreamed of being the head women’s soccer coach, Phillips visited Baker on a scouting trip as a prospective student. Coming from a high-caliber club team full of excellent athletes, Phillips said he had been overlooked during the recruiting process. But what at first might have seemed negative turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“On my recruiting trip, I went to a few other schools,” Phillips said. “But as soon as I left Baker, my mom looked at me and said, ‘I think this is the place for you.’ I said, ‘I couldn’t agree more.’ It felt like home.”
And home it has been for 14 successful years. As a Wildcat athlete, Phillips was elected captain twice and was a three-time all-conference and two-time all-region performer, earning him a spot in Baker’s “All-Time Starting 11” in 2009. He graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences with a BA in History and Political Science in 2006 and earned his Master of Liberal Arts from the School of Professional and Graduate Studies in 2011. In 2008, he accepted a position as assistant coach with the men’s soccer program, where he began working his way through the “natural progression of almost every stage in a college coaching career.” He started as a graduate assistant, then moved on to assistant, associate, and finally head coach, all to get to where he is today: the 2016 National Soccer Coaches Association of America NAIA Women’s Midwest Regional Coach of the Year.
This award comes after the fruitful 2016 campaign and coach Phillips’ third year as head coach. In three seasons, Phillips has gone to the National Championship tournament twice, and has an impressive career record of 44-14-6.
“This award, it’s cliché, but it’s [because of] everyone involved,” Phillips said. “The award, for me, is more than anything just a recognition of the program’s success and the team’s success. I’m happy to be the figurehead for sure, but it’s not about me. It’s about everyone that made it possible.”
However, Phillips’ players are quick to reflect the honor back on him. “I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that Davy works very hard year-round to push us to be the best we can be, both on and off the field. He is always in our corner and I have the utmost respect for him and what he has done with the program the last three years,” said junior Kady Dieringer, an NAIA Daktronics Scholar-Athlete and the 2016 leading scorer for the team.
As for next year, Phillips and his team are looking forward to another successful season. Although the team will lose star athletes, it will gain a talented recruiting class and retain some key players. Dieringer is excited looking to the future.
“We are going to have to work on finding new strengths and building upon those throughout the season,” Dieringer said. “Although there might be a lot of change, I am excited to see where it takes us.”
For Phillips, this fourth season as head coach isn’t necessarily about success—it’s about support and guidance.
“More than anything, you’re coaching people; you’re not coaching soccer,” Phillips said. “In life really, and in general, it’s about people and interactions, and how you treat people, all of those things. If you coach from a place of love, you’ll get that back. And if everyone around you loves what you’re doing every day, you’re going to have some really good results.”