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Get To Know the 2024 Arizona Sidewinders Coaches and Staff

Updated: Mar 6

Melissa Huegerich - Head Coach

Headshot of Mel Huegerich

On October 3rd, 2023, Arizona didn’t ask what day it was. Instead, they announced Huegerich as their new head coach – the first female head coach in franchise history.

Huegerich comes to the Sidewinders with a lengthy resume, starting her career playing for Truman State University in 2006. After 2 years with Truman State, she joined Hayride Ultimate before starting her coaching career.

She began coaching at her alma mater in 2010 and led the TSUnami to Nationals for 5 years consecutively. Huegerich’s now 14 years of coaching experience – which includes a 2015 USAU College Coach of the Year award – has included time with the University of Missouri, Northern Arizona University, and the Flagstaff Ultimate Club.

Outside of coaching, Huegerich has continued to play ultimate – qualifying for and playing in for USAU Club Nationals with Midwest RevoLOUtion, USAU Beach Nationals with Land Ho!, and USAU Masters Nationals and WFDF Master’s Worlds with the Snowbirds. She moved to Arizona in 2018 and made the Sidewinders roster in 2020.

While Huegerich was coaching at NAU, she met the future founder of the Sidewinders, Helen Eifert. Knee and ankle injuries have prevented Huegerich from playing since 2021, but Eifert never stopped bugging her about joining the coaching staff.

“I had numerous parties reach out to see if I was interested in coaching,” Huegerich said. “I was hesitant the first couple years due to my busy schedule. This year I decided, I might as well interview for it and see if I could take it on.”

Huegerich’s focus is all about bringing out the best in each player. She will look to maximize everyone’s individual strengths and bring them together for the most cohesive, streamlined team.

Ross Barker - Assistant Coach

Headshot of Ross Barker

A natural born athlete, Barker attended the University of Wisconsin with dreams to play football as a wide receiver. However, a heart condition disqualified him from continuing. 

He stumbled upon the Hodags, the university’s men’s ultimate team, and played for five years. His time there included 5x College National appearances and a nomination for the prestigious Callahan Award in 2017. 

After his senior year of college, he was invited to Team USA’s U24 men’s team, earning  a gold medal in Perth, Australia. 

Barker made his professional debut with the Madison Radicals before relocating to Chicago to play for the AUDL’s Chicago Wildfire and captain UFA’s Chicago Union. Barker was a major contributor to Union’s rise in success, from a bottom ranked team in 2018 to their Championship appearance in 2022.

In 2018, he recorded 45 goals and 35 assists in just 13 games. In 2021, he tied a single game league record with 8 goals in Union’s semifinal game against Carolina Flyers. 

Outside of the professional circuit, he played for the storied club team Chicago Machine, culminating in a silver medal at 2019 Club Nationals. 

After 12 years of playing, Barker retired 6 months ago and began his coaching career with Arizona. He moved to Arizona to further his career as a prosthetist-orthotist.

Jax Salustro - Assistant Coach

Headshot of Jax Salustro

A former Sidewinder, Salustro joins the coaching staff as an assistant coach and sideline coordinator this year. Salustro moved to Arizona two weeks before the first Sidewinders tryout in 2020, making her pro debut at Winter Cup 2021.

Her ultimate experience spans over a decade, starting as a sophomore in high school at top ranked Watchung Hills Regional High School in New Jersey. From there, Salustro joined and eventually captained Boston University’s Ozone Pilots (now BU Uprising).

“Jax brings a level of professionalism that’s really exciting, and a soft side to team management with respect to player experience,” Huegerich said.

Salustro also helped found Delaware Valley Youth League (DEVYL) in 2019, a non-profit that hosts youth, young adult, and adult leagues across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. 

Charlie Hoppes - Strategic Support Staff Leader

Headshot of Charlie Hoppes

One of the most recognizable names in the sport, Charlie Hoppes will be helping Arizona as the strategic support staff leader. His experience and knowledge will be pivotal in helping the Sidewinders make a run at Championship Weekend. 

Hoppes has been playing and coaching for nearly 20 years. He began his career in college with the Messiah University Falcons, playing from 2005 to 2010, and captaining in 2008. He transitioned to coaching the Falcons for nine years, leading them to five West Penn Conference Championship wins. In 2019, Hoppes was awarded Ohio Valley Coach of the Year in 2019, and had his number retired by the team in 2019.

During that time, Hoppes was also an assistant coach for the UFA’s Philadelphia Phoenix. In 2021, he was hired as the co-head coach for  the UFA’s New York Empire, celebrating back-to-back championships in 2022 and 2023. The team didn’t lose a single game in 2022 or 2023, going 30-0 since their championship game loss in 2021.

Hoppes stepped away from head coaching in November 2023 to focus on his mental health. 

“Hoppes will be key in analyzing our opponents and understanding the key matchups and strategies they run,” Huegerich said.

He will also contribute to player and coach strategy, which Huegerich says already has a huge impact on the team. 

We support destigmatizing depression and talking openly about mental health struggles. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health or has thoughts of self-harm, please call or chat the National Sucide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or check out 2-1-1 Arizona for resources.

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