Stephen Salas named head coach of Abilene Christian women’s soccer program
ABILENE – Stephen Salas has been named the second-ever head coach of the Abilene Christian University women’s soccer program. The former Wildcat associate head coach served the last year at Hardin-Simmons University in the same role.
Salas’ experience includes nine years at Division I programs ACU and Louisiana, and three total years at Hardin-Simmons, dating back to 2011.
“I could not be more excited to welcome Coach Salas back to ACU,” said Vice President for Athletics Zack Lassiter. “His passion for the mission of ACU coupled with a winning track record everywhere he’s played and coached makes him the ideal leader for our women’s soccer program.”
Salas will officially begin his role as head coach Jan. 4 on campus.
“I am thrilled to be the next head coach at Abilene Christian,” said Salas. “ACU is a leader in Christian education, and I am blessed to be coming back home to a community that embodies a Christ-centered mission field. I would like to thank Zack Lassiter, Heather Wyatt, and the rest of the search committee for entrusting me with the future of the program and demonstrating the family atmosphere within ACU Athletics. The history of ACU Soccer under Casey Wilson is a legacy that will always be cherished. I would also like to thank Lance Key for his mentorship and discipleship over the past four years. It is an exciting time to be a Wildcat, as we will be competing for conference championships right away.”
Salas spent the last season at HSU where he helped guide the Cowgirls to a 12-3-2 record with an appearance in the American Southwest Conference championship game, where they fell to undefeated Mary Hardin-Baylor, 1-0. Hardin-Simmons placed eight players on the all-ASC teams, including the Midfielder of the Year in Jenna Kirk and the Defensive Freshman of the Year in Kalea Willis.
Prior to his time down Ambler Avenue, Salas spent three years as the Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where the Ragin’ Cajuns went 25-27-7.
During his first go-around at ACU (2013-18), Salas, who’s specialty was coaching the goalkeepers, was a key part of the coaching staff that helped lead the Wildcats to what was the best season in program history, a 15-6-1 2018 season that saw the Wildcats win its first-ever Southland Conference Championship.
The Wildcats rode their conference championship to a berth in the NCAA Tournament which was not only the first appearance for the soccer program but the first time an ACU athletic program has ever appeared in a NCAA Tournament at the Division I level. During ACU’s historic run to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats ripped off seven-straight wins to finish the season, during a stretch where ACU outscored its opponents 15-2.
Overall, ACU went 61-46-11 in those six seasons.
Prior to his time at ACU, Salas spent six seasons as a player and eventually assistant coach at his alma mater Hardin-Simmons. He was the Cowboys’ goalkeeper from 2008 to 2011 and helped his squad win the 2009 American Southwest Conference Tournament and reach the NCAA Championships’ Sweet 16 behind an overall record of 12-3-6.
Salas eventually became an assistant and goalkeeping coach on the HSU women’s soccer team, joining the staff prior to the start of the 2011 season, and in two years he helped lead them to 38 wins, a pair of conference regular season and tournament championships, and an appearance in the 2012 NCAA Sweet 16. His goalkeepers also allowed just eight goals (0.36 GAA) in each season and combined for 33 shutouts as HSU extended its regular-season conference unbeaten streak to a NCAA-record 157 matches.
During Salas’ two years on the Cowgirls’ bench, HSU finished with a No. 12 national ranking in 2011 by the NSCAA, seventh in 2012, and received two NSCAA/adidas team academic awards. The program also produced a national player of the year, five all-Americas, four academic all-Americas, 11 all-region selections and 14 all-conference honorees.
Salas’ additional experience includes working at the Texas A&M and University of Texas summer soccer camps and coaching the Region III (girls) Olympic Development Program. He also served as the Director of Coaching, Academy Director, and Head Coach for the Abilene Soccer Club along with being the area director for FC Dallas WTX in Abilene, Texas.
Salas did have a professional career as well, playing two summers for the DFW Tornados of the USL Professional Development League. He received his Bachelor’s of Behavioral Science in Education from Hardin-Simmons in December of 2012.