DAVIS, Calif. — After helping Samford to at least a share of the last three Southern Conference titles and helping guide her alma mater to a 2016 NCAA Tournament berth, former Bulldogs’ standout goalkeeper and coach Alyssa Whitehead has joined the UC Davis women’s soccer coaching staff as an assistant coach, Head Coach Twila Kaufman announced on Tuesday.
"Alyssa is a really good fit for our staff, players and UC Davis in general,” Kaufman said. “With an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and minor in biology, she can relate to the experience of the UC Davis student-athlete. She knows how to compete at the highest level, pursue the highest level of education possible, and be engaged in the community. Our players' time at this special place is so short and we feel she will help us best aid our student-athletes in getting the very most of their experience here.”
Whitehead, who officially begins her tenure with the Aggies on March 1, replaces Marcelo Antonelli, who is stepping down to spend time with his soon-to-be-born first child and pursue other soccer projects.
"I would like to say thanks to Twila Kaufman, Katherine Zedonis, Dr. Kevin Blue, and everyone else who was involved in the hiring process for the opportunity work with the UC Davis women’s soccer program,” Whitehead said. “I believe the university and the athletic department have great vision for how to create a successful student-athlete both in the classroom and on the field, and even beyond college. A special vision is growing each day on this campus and I am thankful to now be a part of it.
"I am excited to work along side of Twila and Rachael to help support the vision Twila has for this program. She has done a fantastic job thus far, and its a honor to work alongside her to continue to build this program. I believe great things are coming.”
Following a record-setting four-year career as a goalkeeper at Samford from 2008-11, Whitehead joined the Bulldogs’ coaching staff in the summer of 2015, where her responsibilities included planning and implementing training sessions for goalkeepers, handling team travel, academic oversight, and assisting in recruiting.
She made an immediate impact on the program, helping her alma mater to Southern Conference regular season titles in 2015-17, while claiming the conference tournament championship in 2016 to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament where the Bulldogs faced Florida State in the first round. Whitehead coached Samford keeper Anna Maddox to three All-Southern Conference awards — including first team honors in 2015 and 2016 — while her goalkeepers allowed just a single goal in conference play during her first year on staff.
During her time in Birmingham, Ala., the Bulldogs finished a combined 42-15-5 overall during the last three seasons and lost only two SoCon games in that same span, finishing 24-2-1 in league play.
“Alyssa has a wisdom and measuredness beyond her years and a desire to serve others that is very evident,” Kaufman said. “Her time spent under the tutelage of Todd and Jay Yelton is highly valued. Her ability to demonstrate skills and game tactics is very strong as her playing and coaching experience can testify to. It is the unique way we have seen her package technical, tactical and team culture content for athletes that makes us feel like we struck gold when she accepted the position here.”
Outside of her work with the Bulldogs, Whitehead also served as a goalkeeper coach with the U.S. Olympic Development Program Region III as well as the Birmingham United Soccer Association, while also serving as a volunteer assistant at Oak Grove High School in her hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss.
A four-year varsity starter and four-time All-SoCon selection at Samford, Whitehead finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in shutouts (32) and finished with a career-high 120 saves as a senior in 2011, completing her career with 50 consecutive starts in net. She was an United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast Regional honoree as a sophomore, leading the nation with a 0.31 goals against average — including holding opponents to without a goal for 730 consecutive minutes at one point — and finishing third in the NCAA with a .910 save percentage.
Whitehead capped off her senior season with a SoCon regular season and tournament championship, advancing the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament. In 2018, she became the first soccer player inducted into the Samford Athletics Hall of Fame.
Following her decorated collegiate career, Whitehead competed for the W-League’s Charlotte Lady Eagles from 2009-11, earning the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year and a spot on the all-conference team in 2010, before taking her talents abroad to play three professional seasons in Sweden with Umea Sodra FF from 2012-13, and Mallbacken IF in 2014.
She finished with seven shutouts in 2012 with Umea Sodra FF, while helping Mallbacken IF to the Elitettan Division title in 2014, finishing with nine clean sheets and helping the club earn promotion to the Damallsvenskan — Sweden’s top division.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT Alyssa Whitehead
"Alyssa has spent seven years with us at Samford as both a player and a coach. She was a remarkable player who set every record imaginable while she was a student-athlete here. She is one of the best young keeper coaches in the country. Over her time here as a coach, our keepers have consistently been ranked extremely high in all national rankings. Most importantly, she is one of the finest human beings that I know. She loves and cares about others which is evident everyday. UC Davis has gotten a great coach but an even better person."
"Alyssa Whitehead is a great hire for UC Davis. Alyssa was an outstanding player and leader at Samford and enjoyed a very successful career both in college and as a professional player. She will be an asset and mentor to all of players at UC Davis and will continue to grow as a coach under the guidance of Twila Kaufman.”
“When it comes to hiring a great coach, they don’t come much better than Alyssa. She has an excellent playing pedigree and can still technically and tactically demonstrate what Twila wants, so there will be immediate credibility with the players. She is a hard-working person who’s thoughtful and kind, so she’ll be a great asset as a recruiter. Lastly, she is witty and fun to be around, so the whole athletic department is in for a treat as they work alongside her. I think UC Davis athletics has hired a rising star in Alyssa.”