As the school’s all-time winningest coach, Charlotte alum John Cullen enters his eighth year in charge of the women’s soccer program in 2016. He is the fourth head coach in the program’s history and returned to his alma mater in January 2009 after a highly successful eight-year stretch (2001-08) as the head women’s soccer coach at Catawba in nearby Salisbury.
He became the school’s career victories leader Oct. 12, 2014, when he led the 49ers to a 2-1 triumph over Conference USA foe Southern Miss at Transamerica Field. He boasts 75 wins during his Charlotte tenure, registering a positive result in over one-half of the matches in which the team has played.
The London, England, native mentored three players to all-league honors last fall, including All-Conference USA First Team recipient Martha Thomas. Thomas netted a conference-best 13 goals and became only the third player in program history to tally double-digit scores in multiple seasons on her way to being named to her second-straight all-region squad by the NSCAA. She was joined by Annika McHenry on the All-Conference USA Academic Teams.
Transfer Katie O’Neill also made an immediate impact, garnering All-C-USA Third Team accolades and helped bolster the offensive attack along with returners Perri Bonner, Virginia Lingo and Emily Truelove. A talented group of newcomers is set to join the corps this fall to give the 49ers a variety of scoring options.
Charlotte has also been well known for its defensive efforts through the years, most recently holding 14 opponents last fall to two goals or less including nine of the 10 Conference USA matches.
“I am extremely pleased to have someone with John’s character, abilities and accomplishments but the one thing that you can never put a price tag on – the one thing that truly excites me – is his passion for our program,” Charlotte director of athletics Judy Rose said at the time of his hiring. “To have an alum, who was a member of our soccer program, who has great coaching credentials, come home, is the best of both worlds. What he’s done there (Catawba) is remarkable and I think the sky’s the limit for him here. He has a vision for our program that exceeds what we have done.”
Throughout his 49ers coaching career, Cullen has crafted a 75-52-13 (.582) ledger, guiding the team to the conference tournament in all but one season with the event returning to Transamerica Field in 2016. In each of his first two years, 2009 and 2010, Charlotte reached the championship match after completing the regular season with 9-0-2 and 8-1-0 league records, respectively.
He won 16 overall games in each of those campaigns, garnering a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season crown in 2010. His initial squad tied the school record for single-season shutouts (13), while outscoring the opposition by an astounding 60-to-16 margin.
Hailey Beam was chosen as the 2009 Atlantic 10 Midfielder of the Year, while Whitney Weinraub was picked as the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year the same season. Six players received an all-league honor and another three added all-academic accolades to conclude his first year.
The all-conference award winners jumped to eight in 2010, including goalkeeper Alex Kubrick on the all-rookie team. Again, the 49ers placed a player on the all-academic team in addition to Jones being honored on the all-rookie squad in 2011.
In 2012, Charlotte reached the double-digit win plateau despite losing three of its top five scorers from the previous fall. The 49ers entered the season with the 10 field player returning starters having earned only a combined 58 starting nods. Despite the youthful group, a total of four Niners were recognized as All-Atlantic 10 performers.
Cullen’s 2013 squad added another trophy to the case, picking up the Conference USA East Division in its first year back in the league. The 49ers weathered through injuries midseason to win the outright championship and earn the division’s top seed at the conference tournament, where they reached the semifinals.
He orchestrated another double-digit win campaign along the way, his fourth in five years, and led Jones and Monica Trickett to All-Conference USA Second Team honors. The pair added All-Conference USA Tournament Team accolades as well, while Nicole Anderson added an All-Conference USA Freshman Team nod.
The Niners outscored their opponents 22-to-5 during the second half in 2013, registering a number of comebacks to pull out victories or force ties. That never-say-die mentality helped lift the team to a 7-2-1 record at Transamerica Field during the program’s 20th season. A year-long celebration featured the retirement of Hailey Beam’s jersey and a large group of alumnae returning for Alumni Weekend in October.
Cullen and the 49ers played host to the 2014 Conference USA Championships. Thomas was selected as a TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshman All-American, the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and an all-region choice. She burst onto the scene with 11 goals during her rookie campaign, creating havoc for opposing defenses along the way.
Overall, four Charlotte players earned All-Conference USA honors, including Taylor Dulaney garnering a first-team spot in addition to joining Thomas as an all-region pick. Amanda Jones and Sara Trexler rounded out the all-league choices, while Victoria Fubara and Shelby Hicks were named to the conference’s all-academic teams. Jones capped her career as one of the school’s all-time offensive greats, ranking in the Top 10 listings in several categories.
Prior to coming back to the Queen City, Cullen led the Catawba Indians to four NCAA Division II Regional appearances, including two showings in the regional finals. The program won a pair of South Atlantic Conference (SAC) regular-season titles in addition to his personal hardware of four SAC Coach-of-the-Year plaudits. In 2005, he was named the NSCAA Regional Coach of the Year after the squad finished with a 16-4-1 record.
All in all, he recorded a 113-33-16 (.747) record during his tenure, finishing as the school’s career wins leader. He developed two All-Americans, an academic All-American, two SAC Players of the Year, 18 all-region selections and 32 all-conference honorees.
In addition to his collegiate resume, Cullen boasts strong ties to the Olympic Development Program (ODP) level. He began working at the state level in 2001 before joining the US Region III staff in 2006. Overall he tallied a 46-4 record with the NC ODP program, including an unbeaten, unscored upon 16-game slate with the ’90s NC ODP team. He joined forces with former 49ers assistant coach Sarah (Judy) Denton in the summer of 2010, leading the NC ODP ’95 team to the regional championships in Montevallo, Alabama. The squad then represented Region III in the February 2011 national championships.
He was honored as the 2015 recipient of the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association’s Brantley-Murphy Award for his dedication and commitment to the sport on the state level.
Cullen served as the assistant director of coaching with the Charlotte Soccer Club from 1992-2001 and also was the executive director of soccer with the FC Carolina Alliance, based in Concord, for three years.
In addition, he coached the Charlotte Soccer Academy U12 Girls Team in 2014 which reached the National Championship of the President’s Cup despite playing up in the U13 age level. He’s also been honored recently, in December 2015, as the Charlotte Youth Girls Coach of the Year.
He graduated from Charlotte in 1993 with a bachelor of arts degree in English, while playing all four years with the 49ers’ men’s soccer team. He was a member of the program’s first NCAA Tournament team in 1991, which peaked at No. 4 in the national rankings, as well as the 1992 NCAA Tournament squad that climbed to as high as No. 2 in the polls.
Cullen, a team captain, garnered a spot on the NSCAA South Region Scholar-Athlete Team in addition to the Sun Belt Academic Honor Roll.
Cullen currently holds a USSF (United States Soccer Federation) "A" license.
He currently resides in nearby Concord with his wife Terina and their three daughters: Bailey (17), Peyton (15) and Reagan (13).
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