VMI men's soccer head coach Michael Bonelli enters his third season at the helm after working to re-create a winning culture during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Although the Keydets did not claim a victory in 2017, VMI was competitive in their matches and fought for a complete 90 minutes. The future of the team shows promise as freshman midfielder Pa-Alieu Ann was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team for his contributions during the year.
The team also excelled academically as it was given the Colonel Don Jamison Team Academic Achievement Award, which recognizes a men's team and a women's team that have distinguished themselves with superior academic achievement. The award is earned by which team's cadet-athletes have accumulated the greatest number of individual academic honors from the VMI Athletic Academic Honors Program relative to the size of its membership.
Bonelli came to VMI from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, where he spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons logging 16 victories, one of the best two-year spans in program history. An excellent recruiter, Bonelli assembled Rattler squads that made it to the Heartland Conference semifinals both years, the team's first back-to-back playoff appearances since 2003.
Over the 2014-15 seasons at St. Mary's, Bonelli produced two NSCAA All-Region team recipients, nine All-Conference selections and four All-Tournament team honorees.
"I am very excited for the opportunity to join the VMI family," Bonelli said. “VMI has a great tradition of academic excellence, and I am looking forward to leading the men's soccer program to achieve success on and off the field. I would like to thank Dr. Diles and the entire VMI family for the opportunity to lead the men's soccer program."
In 2014, the East Meadow, New York native delivered St. Mary's its first winning season since 2002 and the most victories since 2007 with an 8-7-2 campaign. Five Rattlers were named to the All-Heartland Conference Team in 2014 and two to the All-Heartland Tournament team.
His 2014 team was ranked as high as No. 6 in the NSCAA regional rankings and earned a win over No. 20 Fort Lewis, its first victory over a ranked opponent since 2003 and only the second in program history.
Bonelli has a proven history of successful academics among his athletes as three have earned Capital One Academic All-District honors and 43 have been recognized as Heartland Conference Academic Honor Roll selections.
Prior to arriving at St. Mary's, Bonelli led NCAA D-II Slippery Rock University to national prominence over four seasons, building a culture that culminated in a conference championship, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA regional tournament and a No. 8 national ranking.
He reached the PSAC final twice in four years at Slippery Rock and the conference semifinals three times in four years while amassing a 62-percent winning percentage.
Prior to taking over Slippery Rock, Bonelli was an assistant coach at Wright State in 2009. He spent the previous two years as an assistant coach at Northwestern, where the Wildcats earned top-10 rankings each season. From 2005-07, Bonelli served as an assistant at Lafayette College.
As a collegiate soccer player, Bonelli manned the outside midfielder position at Norwich University in Vermont before transferring to SUNY Cortland in New York, where he received his bachelor's degree in physical education in 2004.
He holds a U.S. Soccer Federation “A” license and National Soccer Coaches Association of America Advanced National Diploma.