Mario Sanchez has been promoted to Associate Head Coach of the Louisville men’s soccer program, head coach Ken Lolla announced on Wednesday. Sanchez is in his third season as an assistant coach with the Louisville Cardinals. Sanchez joined Lolla's staff in 2010 after serving as the head coach at UNLV for four seasons. He had previously coached under Lolla for three seasons at Akron before taking the UNLV job.
“We value having Mario as such an integral part of our program as he is not only one of the best coaches in college soccer, he is one of the best young coaches in the game,” said Lolla. “He is an excellent leader and a person of great character as well.”
In just his first two seasons at Louisville, Sanchez helped guide the Cardinals to a National Runner-Up finish and an Elite Eight finish. In his first season he helped guide the Cards to a school record 20-1-3 record and their first College Cup appearance. Louisville earned its highest ranking at No. 1 in the majority of the polls heading into the postseason in 2010. The Cardinals also earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, marking another first for the Cardinals. Louisville won the BIG EAST Red Division title and captured their first BIG EAST Tournament title. Last season Sanchez and the coaching staff were named 2010 Co-BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year. Sanchez was also recognized as a top assistant by College Soccer News in his first season at Louisville.
This season the Cardinals played the one of the toughest schedules in the nation finishing with a 14-7-2 overall record. Louisville was ranked in the Top 15 all season and finished the season with a heartbreaking loss to UCLA in overtime of the NCAA Elite Eight. The Cardinals had a school record four players drafted in the 2011 MLS Super Draft, including three first round picks.
In his four years at UNLV, Sanchez turned the men's soccer program into one of the top programs in the West. After struggling in his first season with the Rebels, Sanchez brought in a very talented recruiting class, that included one of the nation's top recruits, Daniel Cruz. His recruiting efforts paid off guiding the squad to a 7-10-3 season his second year, earning six more wins since the previous season. Cruz was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Year and was a third team freshman All-American. While newcomer Andrew Friel also earned All-MPSF honors.
UNLV also claimed an upset victory over 21st-ranked New Mexico in a 2-1 overtime victory, the program's second win over a ranked team in Sanchez's two seasons, and finished in a tie for fifth in the MPSF with a 3-7 league mark. Two Rebels (Cruz and Neagle) earned first team All-MPSF honors, and Sanchez was named Co-MPSF Coach of the Year for 2007.
In his third season at UNLV, the Rebels got off to a 3-0 start for just the third time in school history, and Sanchez had his team ranked regionally while also receiving votes in the national Top-25 polls. Though the Rebels had a few struggles starting with the middle of conference play, UNLV still finished at 8-9-1, the most wins since the 2002 season. Senior forward Lamar Neagle earned all-region honors, while both he and Daniel Cruz were first team All-MPSF selections. Sanchez also saw the duo both earn spots on MLS teams this summer, with Cruz drafted by Houston and Neagle signed by Seattle.
In his final season, Sanchez guided the Rebels to their first winning season since 2002 with an overall record of 8-7-4. His 2009 squad was the youngest team in the nation with 12 freshmen and 14 newcomers to the squad. His team upset the third seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament and then fell in the semifinals to top seeded Sacramento State in double overtime. Freshman forward Nick Marshall was named to the NSCAA third team All-Far West Region. Marshall was the first-ever freshman at UNLV to earn all-region honors, and the third Rebel in the past five years to earn the honor.
Sanchez came to UNLV from Akron, where he was an assistant coach under Lolla from 2003-2005. During his time the Zips earned three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including an appearance in the Elite Eight in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, where they tied eventual national champion Maryland, which advanced in a penalty kick shootout. The Zips finished the 2005 season with an 18-1-4 record and were ranked No. 1 in the nation for four straight weeks.
A 1999 graduate of Fresno State with a bachelor's of science degree in business administration, Sanchez was a four-year starter and two-time captain for the Bulldogs. Playing from 1993-97, Sanchez earned All-Far West Region honors in 1995 and 1997. He 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 also played for Orange County Zodiac (1999) and Stanislaus Cruisers (2001) in the USL Professional Division.