Lipsitz Fills Coaching Staff

Jan. 28, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Willie Gage and Michelle Rayner have been hired as assistant coaches for the University of Kentucky women’s soccer program, as announced by Head Coach Jon Lipsitz.

Gage comes to UK after spending a season as an assistant coach to Lipsitz with the Charlotte 49ers women's soccer program. Prior to that, he spent 15 years with the Ohio Premier Girls Soccer Club where he coached with Lipsitz as well. Gage spent the first 12 years that he worked with the Ohio Premier Girls Soccer Club as the Assistant Director of Coaching, and was promoted to Director of Coaching when Lipsitz moved to Charlotte in 2005.

At the Ohio Premier Soccer Club, he coordinated, oversaw and directed the training and coaching philosophy. He hired the coaches as well as assigned the Ohio Premier Club teams to the various leagues and tournaments. He also acted as the Head Coach for numerous Ohio Premier teams over the last 15 years.

No stranger to UK women’s soccer, Gage’s sister, Annie was an All-SEC performer for the Wildcats in 1999 and 2001.

Gage and his wife, Valerie, have three children, Amanda (14), Kyle (8) and Emma (4).

Michelle Rayner

“The first step for me was getting a chance to work with Jon again, just because of our past; he’s not only been a good friend, but a good mentor,” said Gage. “To have an opportunity to not only be involved with the university that my sister and sister-in-law and previous players I’ve coached have been a part of, but to get back to the Midwest, and closer to family, it’s just a great opportunity.”

Michelle Rayner returns to Lexington after serving as head coach at High Point for the last four seasons where she led the Panthers to a 33-38-12 record, including a 19-13-11 mark in her last two seasons. In 2007, Rayner guided High Point to the Big South Tournament Championship and made the school’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Along the way the team matched the program’s Division I record for season wins with 11. In 2008, she equaled the all-time program record for fewest losses in a season with five.

During her time at High Point, she produced 14 All-Big South performers and recruited and developed three Big South All-Freshman selections. Rayner’s insistence on excellence in the classroom showed results as well, producing two Big South Women’s Soccer Scholar Athletes of the Year and four CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honorees.

Before taking the head coaching job at High Point, Rayner was an assistant coach at Kentucky from 2001-04. During her time in Lexington, Rayner helped coach five Wildcats to seven All-SEC honors.

“Coming back to UK with the staff we have is tremendous, and the decision was not a hard one to make,” said Rayner. “Having lived in Lexington and worked at UK before, you grow to love it. I know (UK Athletics Director) Mitch (Barnhart) is doing some tremendous things here, and with what he’s accomplished and his vision for the future the decision was that much easier to make. Jon (Lipsitz) is a tremendous coach whom I’ve known for many years. I think we have a lot of the same similarities and philosophies and it was an honor to be asked by him to return to UK as a part of his staff. We’ll do what’s required to get the job done and get the program moving in the direction it should be, and that includes winning championships.”

The hiring of Gage and Rayner completes Lipsitz’s staff in time for the upcoming spring season.

“When I was fortunate enough to be hired here, I immediately told my wife what my dream staff was and I decided to go for that,” said Lipsitz. “I’m very fortunate that Mitch Barnhart and John Cropp supported me in aggressively pursuing the staff I wanted. I was looking for a staff that would balance and protect my weaknesses and accentuate my strengths, so that we could truly do this as a group. I felt that was essential to our future success.

“I’ve known Willie Gage for 15 years and won championships with him. I was fortunate to have him at Charlotte with me the last few months and I think the players could feel that we have a special coaching connection. I got to know Michelle a few years ago. We coached together in ODP and again, just like Willie, she is an amazing human being first; she’s a person that believes in a great student-athlete experience and is a fantastic coach. Obviously to add in her experience here at the university, her pride in the athletic department and her pride in this program made her another perfect person for me. For those reasons they were my first choices, I’m fortunate they both said yes. Hopefully they can help me to move this program to winning championships.”