RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande didn’t have to look very far to find a new head coach for its women’s soccer program.
The school has announced the hiring of long-time men’s soccer assistant coach Tony Daniels to lead the RedStorm women.
Daniels replaces former head coach Callum Morris, who stepped down late in the 2015 regular season to pursue other career opportunities.
The RedStorm, who posted an 8-10 record last fall following a loss to Point Park in the semifinal round of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, finished the season with assistant coach Craig Davies at the helm.
“I’m excited and very much looking forward to the opportunity,” Daniels said. “I think it’s a good situation – not only for myself, but the University and for both of our soccer programs. I’ve been an assistant with the men’s team for the past 25 years and I’d like to think I’ve played some kind of role in the success we’ve enjoyed. I think the girls program can be taken to that level, but it’s going to take some work. A strong foundation has already been laid, though, and I’m ready to start working with the girls.”
Daniels has been a fixture on the URG campus for nearly 30 years – first as a student and then as an assistant coach and, later, the heads of Rio’s Campus Sports and Recreation program as Director of the Lyne Center and the Rio Grande Fitness Center.
Daniels, who owns both a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports & Exercise and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Coaching from Rio Grande, was an integral part in assisting head coach Scott Morrissey in transforming the Rio Grande men’s program into a national powerhouse after completing his own playing career with the then-Redmen.
With Daniels assisting Morrissey, the Rio Grande men have qualified for the NAIA National Tournament every year since 2001, winning the national championship in 2003 and again last month. The program also earned a runner-up finish in 2008, while also reaching the Final Four in 2001 and 2009.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Tony is more than qualified for the position,” said Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham. “He’s been with Scott every step of the way in building the men’s program into what it is today. He could’ve been a head coach a long time ago had he chosen to do so. He’s already familiar with the players and the program and he’s a valued member of our Rio family. I think he’s the perfect fit for us.”
Daniels becomes just the third head coach in the history of the Rio women’s program, which posted a school-record 12 wins in 2014 en route to winning a KIAC championship and reaching the NAIA national tournament for the first time.
The RedStorm women recorded consecutive winning seasons prior to last year’s finish.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head coach without having to uproot my family to do it, so this is a great opportunity,” Daniels said. “Rio has been nothing but good for myself and my family. I’m looking forward to working with the girls and trying to take the program where it needs to be every year.”
Daniels admitted that the decision to step away from the men’s program – although he says he’s not leaving the program completely – was a tough one, especially on the heels of winning a national championship.
But, he added, that the players and Morrissey were supportive of his decision.
“It was a difficult decision in that you don’t find very many programs where the head coach and assistant coach worked in tandem for 25 years. Scott and I have been the yin and yang for each other,” Daniels said. “I played against him, he was my coach for a year and I’ve been his assistant ever since. I’ve learned so much from him – things I want to implement into the girls program – and he’ll always be a rock to lean on. But I also think it’s the perfect chance for me, as a coach, to spread my wings and fly.”
Daniels admitted that, as a result of the timing of his hiring, his immediate concerns revolve around recruiting and finalizing a non-conference schedule.
“I still want to win and I want to be in the national spotlight – and I know the work that will have to be put into it to make it happen,” he said. “There will be trials and tribulations, but I think I can bring a new vision to the program. With the returning girls that we have, a good recruiting class and a little bit of luck, I think we can get back on top in the league and get back in the national tournament very soon.”
Daniels, who also is the Director of Coaching for the Rio Soccer Academy, which he formed six years ago to develop soccer in the surrounding community, resides in Rio Grande with his wife, Teresa, sons, Keagen and Kyran and daughter, Kamryn.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.