SAMAR AZEM | HEAD COACH & CAMP DIRECTOR
Samar Azem was named head coach in July of 2017 after serving as an assistant coach for one year and an associate head coach for two seasons. An alumna of Campbell, Azem was a goalkeeper for the Camels women's soccer program from 2003-07.
Azem led the Camels to an overall record of 10-7-2 (5-2-2 Big South) in her first year at the helm of the Campbell women's soccer program in 2017. For the second consecutive season, the Camels netted 40 goals, which led the Big South. CU also led the conference in goals per game (2.11), points (108) and corners (108). Under Azem's tutelage, sophomore Alexa Genas had a historic year, netting 15 goals, the fourth most in a single season in program history. At the end of the season, Genas was named the Big South Attacking Player of the Year, the second player in Campbell history to win the award. Additionally, Genas, Anna Brantley and Shelby Denkert picked up all-conference accolades and Siara Southerland was named to the all-freshman team. Azem led the Camels to its fourth consecutive appearance in the Big South Championship semifinals.
In 2016, Azem coached an attack that led the conference in goals (40), assists (43) and points (123). The Camels had six athletes named to all-conference teams, including Alexa Genas, Payton Ormsby and Murita Storey, who received first team all-conference honors. The Campbell defense posted six shutouts on the year, including three in a row to end the season and clinch a top four seed for the Camels in the conference tournament.
In her second season with Campbell, Azem continued to improve the Camels goalkeepers and defense. The team finished the campaign with a 0.99 goals-against average overall and a 1.11 goals-against in Big South play. The senior goalkeeping duo recorded a combined eight shutouts during the season en route to Campbell's runner-up finish in the Big South Tournament. She also led the team in training sessions, which saw the team reach high offensive outputs. The Camels offensive scoring per game ranked fourth in the Big South (1.52), with their assists (39) ranking first in the conference and 26th in Division I. The team finished third in the conference in total goals on the season (32) and second in total points (103).
During her first season at Campbell in 2014, Azem primarily focused on goalkeepers and the defense. Prior to Azem's arrival, the 2013-14 season had a 2.27 GAA (39 goals), which was second lowest in the Big South. During her first season, the Camels defensive group only allowed 24 goals in 18 matches, earning the second best GAA in the Big South at 1.18. The tandem of Alexis Connors and Samantha Lawson combined for five shutouts, improving on the three during the 2013 season. During the course of conference play, Azem also devoted time to working with and bettering the other aspects of the team throughout training and Big South games.
Prior to arriving at Campbell, Azem was the head coach at Anderson University for three seasons (2011-13). At Anderson, she compiled a 21-24-9 overall record, with a 12-10-7 mark in three years of South Atlantic Conference play. After the 2013 season, three Trojans were placed on SAC all-conference teams, including three-time selection, goalkeeper Kaitlyn Neipp. Azem coached 10 Trojans to postseason all-conference accolades during her tenure.
In 2011, Anderson reached the semifinal round of the SAC Tournament for the first time in program history. Azem also guided the team to a No. 8 ranking in the Southeast Region during the regular season.
Prior to Anderson, Azem served as an assistant coach at Presbyterian for the 2010 season, where she primarily focused on goalkeeper training. Blue Hose goalkeepers recorded five shutouts on the season with a 1.99 GAA, the strongest by a PC team during the transition to NCAA Division I. While at Presbyterian, Azem took the lead in designing, creating and implementing PC’s first-ever winter camp and worked with supporters and community groups to raise funds for facility upgrades and to boost awareness in the community.
Azem was the top assistant at Mercer during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The Bears won their first ever regular season Atlantic Sun championship in 2008, as Azem coached keeper Jean Worts. Her GAA ranked 11th in the nation among Division I goalkeepers, while the overall defense ranked sixth nationally.
In 2007, Azem began her coaching career as an assistant at Brevard College, where she coordinated recruiting, team travel, scouting and game-day preparations.
Azem also brings club coaching experience to the Creek. She was the head coach of the 2012 97 CESA Anderson and part of the SC Olympic Development Program staff. While at Mercer, she trained goalkeepers at the Central Georgia Soccer Association and the Macon Soccer Club, two of Central Georgia’s largest soccer clubs. Azem has trained and evaluated young players at Carolina Elite Soccer Association and has also organized and overseen camp and clinic sessions with a number of top Georgia clubs in the Atlanta region.
During her collegiate playing career at Campbell, Azem helped lead the Fighting Camels to the A-Sun Conference regular-season and tournament championships in 2004. In 2005, she was named to the all-Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Team for her performance in goal, helping the Camels return to the conference tournament title match. Azem also garnered A-Sun all-academic recognition and earned the squad’s Coaches Award twice (2005-06).
She remains in the CU women’s soccer record book, currently ranking fifth all-time in saves (183), tenth in solo shutouts (5) and seventh in GAA (1.39)
The Jos, Nigeria, native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and a minor in psychology from Campbell in 2007 and earned her master’s degree in education from Mercer in 2010.
MARK SAPPINGTON | ASSISTANT COACH
Mark Sappington came to the Creek in the spring of 2020 after five successful campaigns at Slippery Rock University as an assistant coach.
"I am extremely excited to join the women's soccer staff here at Campbell University," said Sappington. I am thrilled to be part of a program that has such an intentional and supportive staff and team that is constantly striving to improve. I am also incredibly grateful to Samar for giving me the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to the future success of this program. It is an exciting time to be a part of the Campbell women's soccer program, and I am certainly glad to be here!"
At Slippery Rock Sappington directed his keepers to a combined .822 save percentage, 0.95 goals against average and 393 saves along with 41 shutouts and a 63-29-6 record.
"Mark has been a key component on a staff that has rebuilt programs and successfully developed championship players," said Azem. "He is an extremely hard worker and passionate about the development of the student athletes. He connects well with players and has a background in mental training habits."
Most recently in 2019, Slippery Rock claimed a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Title and a berth to the NCAA Tournament in route to a program record 18 wins.
"Mark has established relationships and connections on the recruiting trail which will be an asset to the program," continued Azem. "He will be have a role in various aspects of our program including training, developing, and recruiting high level goalkeepers as well as assisting our student-athletes in developing positive mental training habits."
Sappington came to Slippery Rock after spending one year as the assistant coach of the women's soccer team at the University of Scranton. Prior to that he spent two years as a volunteer assistant with the Shippensburg University men's and women's soccer programs.
Mark pairs his abundance of coaching experience with four years on the pitch in college where he served in goal at Wheeling Jesuit University.
COLBY CUNNINGHAM | ASSISTANT COACH
Colby Cunningham joined the Campbell staff in the spring of 2020 after spending two season's as a volunteer assistant with the women's program at ACC member Notre Dame.
"I am extremely grateful and humbled for the opportunity to be a part of the Campbell Women's Soccer program," said Cunningham. "Samar's passion for the program, this team, and every single player was evident from our first conversation. I've been honored to spend the last few seasons at a storied program in Notre Dame and I'm looking forward to joining yet another program rich in success."
Last season, Cunningham helped develop and mentor a pair of All-ACC Third Team honorees in juniors Eva Hurm and Sammie Fisher.
"Colby paved a successful path within each of his coaching stops and worked in one of the best conferences in the country," stated Azem. "He is a tireless worker, with an insatiable hunger to ensure success. He has an exceptional and detailed ability to analyze and relay principles of the game through sub structures. His background in technology will bring a useful methodology to our data and film analysis as well as player development."
In his first year with the Irish, he worked with Sabrina Flores in her final season with the Irish. Flores was selected by SkyBlue FC in the 2019 NWSL Draft and is currently playing overseas with Sevilla FC.
"He will play a key role in various aspects of the program including developing our student-athletes and team organization, as well as identifying and recruiting high level student-athletes," closed Azem.
In 2020, the Irish had a number of individual offensive breakout seasons under Cunningham’s tutelage. Juniors Eva Hurm and Sammie Fisher both earned All-ACC third team honors after leading the Irish in goals, assists and points. Sophomore Luisa Delgado returned from injury and finished second in assists (4) and third in goals (4) and points (12).
Cunningham also worked with graduate transfer Autumn Smithers. A recent signee for Portland Thorns of the NWSL. She started every game for the Irish at center back and led the team in minutes with 1,811. She tallied her a brace in the 2-1 comeback road win over Western Michigan. She played 90 plus minutes in 12 of the 21 games this season, including playing every minute of the final four games of the season.
Prior to Notre Dame, Cunningham spent two years as an assistant for men’s team at Saginaw Valley State. He helped the Cardinals to tremendous success in his times, winning a GLIAC Championship in 2016 and 2 NCAA Tournament births. The Cardinals compiled a record of 28-9-3 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons while producing two All-Americans, 18 All-GLIAC, two Freshman of the Year, a GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year and GLIAC Goalkeeper of the Year.
He served as an assistant coach for three seasons at Detroit City FC while they competed in the NPSL Members Cup. During his time at DCFC, which boasts one of the largest fan bases in all of North America, they reached three playoff appearances and two runs in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before losing to USL Championship team Louisville City FC in penalty kicks in 2016.
Colby also has experience coaching at the club level, where he coached with Liverpool International Academy – Michigan and the Olympic Development Program.
Cunningham played at Oakland University during the 2007-08 season where he earned an All-Academic award as well as earning his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. He also played in Lørsenskog, Norway for the third division team Fjellhamar FK. He currently holds his USSF “B’ License as well as an NSCAA National Diploma.
SHELBY DENKERT | DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Head coach Samar Azem announced the addition of former Campbell player Shelby Denkert to her staff in August of 2019.
Denkert, who played for the Camels from 2014 to 2017, will serve as the Director of Soccer Management and will be responsible for the daily planning and execution of team practices and events.
"I am beyond excited to come back and work with this team," said Denkert. "Campbell women's soccer has had such an amazing impact on my life. I am looking forward to helping the team grow and prosper this year, on the other side, not as a player, this time."
The former midfielder sits tied for first in school history for matches played and started (79).
"It is always great when we can bring an alumna back that is extremely passionate about Campbell University and Campbell women's soccer," said Campbell head coach Samar Azem who coached Denkert as well. "She was a captain for us, she's in the record books here, and she is a great role model." Shelby had a phenomenal career here, she understands the expectations of our program, she understands the landscape that we compete in, and most importantly she understands our student-athletes and has great relationships with people across campus.
Denkert capped off her career as a Fighting Camel by being named First Team All-Big South following her senior season as well as being as being named to the Big South All-Freshman team her rookie season to bookend her career.
"Shelby had a phenomenal career here. She understands the expectations of our program, she understands the landscape that we compete in, and most importantly she understands our student-athletes and has great relationships with people across campus," continued Azem. "We are beyond privileged to have her back and the dynamic with her and our new staff is outstanding. We have a great staff and she's a fantastic addition to the program, our staff, and the department."
The Miami, Fla. native also tabbed Big South All-Tournament team honors in 2016 and 2017.
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