This article can be found in the Alumni Magazine.

February 22, 2022

The family rolls from one sports season to the next, from Ryan Bolyn coaching USF softball to sons Brody and Reid playing baseball, then football, then basketball, and then everyone heading back to the diamond again. Ryan (BLS ’03) and wife Melissa Neu (BS ’01) met at Saint Francis, when both were—no surprise—athletes. Ryan was a baseball player who also golfed, Melissa a basketball player who also competed in track and field.

Tipoffs, kickoffs, first pitches—those have been the seasons of the year on the Bolyns’ calendar since they first met.

“Sports brought us together,” Melissa said, “and they still do.”

The couple entered Saint Francis the same year, met as freshmen and began dating as sophomores after Melissa’s season as part of the 1999 national championship runner-up women’s basketball team. Ryan took the road trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to cheer the team on. (It turned into an annual trip as Melissa played on four teams that advanced to the national tourney.)

“We had friends who were dating, so we were always kind of all together,” Melissa said.

Their relationship grew during those two years and Ryan proposed not long after they finished their USF careers. He took Melissa to the then-new Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, followed by a walk through Franke Park. “She was probably thinking, ‘Why does he want to walk these trails?’” Ryan said. “That was not normal for me.” He fake-stumbled and ended up on one knee, popping the question.

They married in September 2002, and Ryan moved from assistant superintendent at Chestnut Hills Golf Club to running his own landscaping crew and helping coach USF golf with Jeff Rekeweg. Melissa began her career as a public accountant while assisting with coaching girls basketball at Southern Wells High School, her prep alma mater.

They were at the home of friends whose daughter was committed to play softball at USF when their friends asked Ryan if he would apply for the open women’s softball coaching position.

“I told him I thought he’d be a really good women’s coach,” Melissa said. “He looked at me and said, ‘You serious?’ I told him, ‘You have a different demeanor. You’re no nonsense, no drama; you speak well with women.’”

Ryan applied for the job. Kevin Donley, then the athletic director as well as the football coach, hired him. “The next day I was on the phone talking to kids returning and not returning, and 10 kids coming in. I was interviewed by them all: ‘What’s your philosophy? What’s your approach?’ I didn’t know yet—win a lot of games?”

Since then, Bolyn’s philosophy solidified to include winning, but with an emphasis on academics that led to 100% of four-year players earning a degree. He also stresses service on campus and in the community.

“From the start, the big thing for me was our kids need to be involved in the campus community,” he said. “That’s how you meet people on campus and develop that family atmosphere.”

His teams have helped with USF Zoo Day, Lighting of the Lake, Christmas in the Castle, Feed the Fort Halloween food drive and, most recently, Christmas at Salomon Farms, which was organized by USF alumna and former catcher Eden Lamb (featured on page 8).

Bolyn’s players are known for their tight-knit community with teammates and their connections to others on campus.

“I truly appreciate the way his players treat our kids and our family,” Melissa said. “They don’t know how much it means to us. Our boys may have been annoying little Stillwells (“A League of Their Own”), but they’ve treated them like their little siblings. Saint Francis is home to us and always will be.”