Joe O'Neill Gives Girls Soccer Team 'A Worthy Successor'
By Bob Castello
SJCS Communications Manager
Joe O'Neill arrived relatively late this past season, near the end of January, and he wasn't able to make all the SJCS girls soccer team's practices and games.
Nonetheless, he was around more than enough to find a comfort zone, which is why he's so excited to be leading the program.
"It should be a good year," he said. "I'm hopeful that we can stay successful and have a good time while we do it as well."
Coach O'Neill takes over for Rick Morris, who stepped down after an incredible run that included three trips to the state final, capped by Class 2A state championships the last two years. Likewise it was the last year for Coach Morris' assistant and junior varsity coach, Kristin Rollins.
"They brought me in to see if I would be willing to take over within the next year, and the program was very, very welcoming," Coach O'Neill said. "I had a lot going on with my other job as well. I coach at United FC Furman, and Rick and Kristin were very flexible.
"I wasn't able to be at every training session or every game last year because of what I had going on at the club, and they were very helpful. It made the transition very, very simple, which obviously made me grow to love the program from the start."
A native of Lichfield, England, Coach O'Neill came overseas to study and play soccer at Feather River Junior College in Quincy, California, in 2012. After two years, he moved on to Erskine College, graduating in 2016.
Eighteen months later, he got married. His wife, Alexandra Vinson, is an athletic trainer for Prisma who serves Southside High School and the Greenville Liberty women's professional soccer team.
Coach O'Neill made previous coaching stops in Bluffton and at Riverside High School. He has settled into the Upstate, and he looks forward to settling in at St. Joe's.
"A lot of the players, I coach now at the club or have coached previously, so I wasn't coming into a program where I didn't really know anybody," he said. "There are quite a few familiar coaches, familiar faces and familiar parents as well."
"We are very excited about having Joe O'Neill as our new Head Girls Soccer Coach," Athletic Director Eric Nash said. "He brings a breadth of soccer knowledge and coaching ability to St. Joseph's. It was a blessing to have Coach O'Neill as one of our assistant coaches last year. He played a large role in helping our girls team win their second straight state championship.
"We will miss Coach Morris tremendously, but to his credit, he brought Coach O'Neill on knowing he would be a worthy successor. I'm really looking forward to watching Coach O'Neill lead our team. I believe that the future is bright for Lady Knights soccer."
Coach O'Neill has been with the program for only five months, but everyone has made him feel at home.
"One of the main things that attracted me to St. Joe's was how welcoming everybody was, not just the coaching staff with Rick and Kristin, but with Eric and Becky (Van Evera) as well," he said. "They sat me down and told me the mission and told me how well the program's been doing and how they want to keep that going.
"It was very easy for me because they were allowing me to be so flexible with my time the past year, and that just showed me some of the good views that they have. It was a very easy 'yes' to come on board."