Trio of Technical Staff Hires Support Indy Eleven's On-Field Growth
INDIANAPOLIS - Indy Eleven today announced three pivotal Technical Staff hires that will bolster support of the club's USL Championship squad and its recent investments towards youth and women's soccer initiatives. The trio of personnel moves see Phil Presser take over a newly created Sporting Director, Academy Operations & W League role, Eleven USL Academy League Head Coach Kiki Wallace serve as the organization's new Academy Director, and Gabriel Zapponi assume duties as Director, Sport Performance and Assistant Coach for Indy's USL Championship squad.
"Indy Eleven is extremely proud of our Academy set-up's strong first-year performances and what we believe will continue to be a best-in-class build out of our W League franchise," explained Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President & Chief Executive Officer. "However, we felt now was the time to take a fresh look at how we could restructure our talented personnel to benefit and further grow all three facets of the organization.
"The collaboration of Kiki Wallace and Phil Presser has been instrumental to our early USL Academy success - including Indy Eleven winning the 2021 USL Academy League National Championship - and I am confident their expanded roles will help maintain the program's championship caliber of play," continued Stremlaw. "Phil's work behind the scenes and invaluable contacts within Indiana's soccer community will also continue to bolster our expansion into the W League, and we look forward to him spearheading the team side of that operation leading into their Inaugural 2022 Season. Finally, Gabriel Zapponi brings a rare and valuable combination of soccer coaching and strength and conditioning experience that will make our first team's Technical Staff perhaps the most well-rounded in the USL Championship."
Prior to assuming his new role, Presser served as an assistant coach for the Eleven's first team for three seasons, starting with the 2019 USL Championship season. The decorated Indiana University and Fort Wayne Canterbury High School standout, who holds both a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) A Coaching License and a USSF Academy Director's License, also serves as the Technical Director for Indiana Fire Academy, providing an important link between the Eleven organization and one of the Midwest's most comprehensive and accomplished youth academy structures.
"Three years ago marked the first time in Indiana soccer history that a youth club was paired with a pro club to foster a developmental pathway for the boys academy. With the addition of the USL W League, the women's side has provided these same opportunities to our female athletes and will ensure the overall development of all players in our state," proclaimed Presser. "It's extremely rewarding to see the youth players grow their game and take positive steps forward in taking soccer to the next level here in Indiana. I would like to thank Greg Stremlaw for sharing this vision and bringing in Mark Lowry - he is not only a winning coach on the field, but he is a believer of youth development and rewarding players at this stage."
Wallace is another well-known commodity to Indiana's Team, as the Bloomington native made massive contributions on the roster building and coaching fronts for the club's USL Academy entries in both Cup and League play in 2021. The USSF A Licensed coach first served as an assistant coach for the Eleven U-17 Team that made the Final of the USL Academy Cup in May before taking on the Head Coach capacity for the Eleven's Academy League (U-15 to U-19) side that won the East Central Region regular season crown before capturing the league's inaugural season championship last December. Similar to Presser, Wallace is an Indiana University product who also serves concurrently with the Indiana Fire Academy as the program's Academy Director.
"Phil Presser had a vision three years ago to push integration of the first team with the academy," Wallace stated. "Today, with the help of the entire academy staff, we have been able to implement a schooling program to support our U-19 team training in the morning, side-by-side with the first team, increasing the integration and opportunity for academy players to witness and contribute in the first team environment. This opportunity for players and the academy will only continue to evolve for the better for years to come."
Zapponi (full name Gabriel Zapponi Matos de Oliveira) may be new to the Hoosier State, but he is no stranger to Head Coach Mark Lowry, who has appointed the Brazilian to his coaching staff for five previous seasons across tenures at El Paso Locomotive FC and Jacksonville Armada FC. Zapponi's background is steeped in both the sport performance and coaching sides of soccer, having earned a bachelor's degree in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Central Florida and a master's degree in Leadership and Organizational Development from Jacksonville University - and he is currently on track to finish his Master's in Kinesiology through Concordia University. Those comprehensive studies were put to use by Zapponi most recently with Orlando-based USL League Two side NONA FC in 2021, when he served as the club's Director of Coaches and Sports Performance Director, while previous USL2 coaching stops included sport performance-based positions with Ocala Stampede and The Villages SC. The Rio de Janeiro native arrived in the United States to play at Northeastern A&M College in Oklahoma in 2010 for two seasons before eventually finishing his collegiate career with two years at the University of Central Florida.
"The opportunity to work with Mark Lowry for a sixth season together in this amazing city, with a club that has the same ambitions as we do, and in front of the loudest supporters group in the USL Championship, it is like a dream come true," said Zapponi, who visited Carroll Stadium while with Armada FC in 2016. "The electric fans of this club deserve to be on top of the league and supporting a team competing for championships, and that's why we are here."
Indy Eleven's 2022 home campaign at IUPUI Carroll Stadium begins on Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II - and right now fans can save their seats for the anticipated home debut by securing a Season Ticket Membership, placing a deposit for discounted tickets and exclusive gameday experiences for a group of 10 or more, or locking in one of the stadium's unique Premium Hospitality options. To get full details and purchase tickets, visit indyeleven.com/tickets, or call 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.
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