EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Hewitt has announced that an agreement has been reached making Mario Sanchez the new SIUE men's soccer head coach. Sanchez becomes the seventh head coach in program history.
"We were fortunate in our candidate pool," Hewitt said. "We had applicants from every major soccer conference in the country. Our two finalists were outstanding. Ultimately, we felt Mario was the best fit for the program."
Sanchez comes to SIUE after most recently serving as the Associate Head Coach at Louisville.
"My family and I would like to thank Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe and Dr. Brad Hewitt for allowing me the opportunity to lead the SIUE men's soccer Program," Sanchez said. "I am looking forward to continuing the success of men's soccer program built through the previous head coaches and all of the alumni who have helped shape the culture of success for the program. "
Sanchez takes over an SIUE program that is coming off its most successful season since returning to NCAA Division I play. The Cougars won their first Missouri Valley Conference title in 2014 and advanced to the NCAA tournament where they defeated Northwestern in the first round, before falling on the road at No. 18 California, 1-0.
Cougar standouts Matt Polster and Christian Volesky were each selected during the first day of the Major League Soccer (MLS) Superdraft. Polster was the No. 7 overall pick by the Chicago Fire. Volesky was the 32nd overall pick by the Portland Timbers.
SIUE Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Katie Zingg led the search committee.
"I'd like to thank our entire search committee for the time and effort they put into the process," Zingg said. "I'd especially like to thank (former SIUE Coaches) Kevin Kalish and Brian Jones for agreeing to serve as our experts in the field."
"We are thrilled to welcome Mario to the Cougar family," said Kalish. "Throughout the interview process, Mario's vision and philosophy matched up well with the current culture within the program. He has tremendous collegiate experience as a leader and coach at all levels. Speaking on behalf of the alumni and staff, we feel Mario is the perfect fit to lead SIUE Soccer to new heights."
Sanchez succeeds co-Head Coaches David Korn and Brian Jones. Korn remains on staff as the program's Associate Head Coach. Jones departed SIUE for a position with Saint Louis FC, a United Soccer League (USL) Professional side.
Sanchez served on Louisville's staff for Head Coach Ken Lolla, including the past three seasons as the Associate Head Coach. Prior to joining the staff at Louisville, Sanchez spent four seasons as the head coach at UNLV. Sanchez previously worked under Lolla for three seasons on the Akron staff.
The 1999 graduate of Fresno State began his coaching career at his alma mater. Sanchez was an assistant coach at Fresno State from 1999 to 2003 before the school eliminated its men's soccer program.
With Sanchez on staff, Louisville made five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, advancing to at least the second round in each appearance. In 2010, the Cardinals made their only College Cup Final appearance during Sanchez's first season on the bench, where the team, ironically, bowed out to Akron 1-0. The Louisville staff was recognized as the Co-Big East Conference Coaching Staff of the Year. Sanchez was tabbed as a top assistant by College Soccer News.
This past season the Cardinals were the No. 13 seed and earned a bye to the second round. U of L defeated Saint Louis 2-1 before falling to Maryland-Baltimore County 1-0. The Cardinals, in just their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, advanced to the ACC Tournament title game where they lost 2-1, in overtime, to Clemson.
Louisville earned NCAA quarterfinal appearances in 2011 and 2012.
While the head coach at UNLV, Sanchez transformed the Rebels into one of the top programs in the west. He guided the 2009 team to its first winning record in nearly a decade and a semifinal appearance in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament.
During his time at Akron, the Zips won two Mid-American Conference regular season titles and two tournament titles. Akron made three NCAA tournament appearances, advancing to the third round in 2003.
"We feel confident that partnering with Mario not only will keep SIUE soccer competing at the national championship level but also will continue to elevate the program," Hewitt added.
In addition to team success, Sanchez has coached student-athletes to great individual success as well. At Louisville, Sanchez has coached several All-Americans, a pair of Big East Defenders of the Year and a Big East Rookie of the Year. In 2013, he coached the AAC Defender of the Year. During his time there, Louisville had 12 Major League Soccer draft picks. At UNLV he coached the MPSF Rookie of the Year, who also was a Freshman All-American. In all, 21, players have gone on to play professional soccer after playing under Sanchez.
Outside of the college ranks, Sanchez is involved with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and has been since 2006. He served as the West Region Olympic Development Program (ODP) head coach from 2006 to 2009. He has been an assistant coach with the U17 National team on three different occasions, most recently at the Copa de Mexico tournament in August 2014. Since 2012, he also served as a national scout for USSF.
As a player himself, Sanchez was a four-year starter and two-time captain at Fresno State. Playing from 1993 to 1997, Sanchez earned All-Far West Region honors in 1995 and 1997. He was the Bulldogs' Team Most Valuable Player in each of those two seasons. Sanchez played for the national champion Central Coast Roadrunners in the United Soccer League from 1996-97 and was a third round draft choice in the MLS by the Kansas City Wizards in 1998. Sanchez played for Orange County Zodiac (1999) and Stanislaus Cruisers (2001) in the USL Professional Division.
"The men's soccer program will continue to be leaders in the classroom, community, and on the soccer field," Sanchez added. "I am fully committed to building teams which will win MVC championships and ultimately, compete and win an NCAA Championship."
Sanchez earned a bachelor's in business administration from Fresno State. He holds a USSF 'A' License. Sanchez is married to the former Shana Stickel. The couple has four children: sons Sebastian and Santiago, and daughters Ella and Emme.