PODCAST: Mario Sanchez (SIUE)

Mario Sanchez joins the show this week to talk about his first two seasons at SIUE and what's in store for the Cougars in year three after coming off a Sweet 16 appearance last year.        


This week's guest, SIUE head coach Mario Sanchez, talks about his decision to come to Edwardsville and the immediate success of the Cougars program. He looks back on his adjustment from year one to year two at SIUE that ultimately led to a berth in the Sweet 16 last year. Coach Sanchez also talks about the small margin for error for mid-major programs, the move to the MAC and gives his insight on what he likes about his team in 2017. 

Get these interviews “on the go” by subscribing to the podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, or listen on TuneIn Radio, or to download the audio portion of this interview only, click here.

 2017 Season
>> Mario Sanchez (SIUE)










Look For These Teams To Be Highly Motivated In 2017

The circumstances surrounding the eight teams featured may be somewhat different but all share the common goal of being highly motivated to be a part of the forty-eight team NCAA Tournament field in 2017 after being absent in 2016.

Wisconsin - A solid core returns from a relatively young Badger team that was 11-4-4 overall last year, 9-0-1 when playing at home, second in Big Ten regular season play with a 4-2-2 record, and advanced to the championship contest of the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin was arguably among the best teams in the country that didn't receive an invite to the NCAA Tournament in 2016.

The potential exists for that outcome to change in 2017 with nine starters returning from what will no doubt be a motivated and focused Badger team.  Wisconsin's lineup will feature senior forwards Christopher Mueller (8g, 11a) and Tom Barlow (5g, 4a), senior midfielders Mark Segbers (3g, 2a) and  midfielder Mike Catalano (4g, 2a) and a defensive anchored by three returning starting defenders and redshirt senior goalkeeper Phillip Schilling who had a 0.72 goals against average last year.

UC Santa Barbara - The Gauchos were conspicuously absent from the NCAA Tourney field last year.  Tim Vom Steeg's squad completed the 2016 season with a good but not vintage by UCSB standards ten win season that included a 6-1-3 mark in Big West Conference play.  An early exit from the Big West Tournament and an RPI in the 80's no doubt contributed to the fact that the Gauchos were among the teams that were left standing at the altar last year when it came time to award at-large  berths in the NCAA Tourney. 

Vom  Steeg will head into the 2017 campaign with some big shoes to plug on the offensive side of the ball but with a solid core returning on the defensive side of the ball including senior center backs Jeff Quezada and Josue Salgado and sophomore netminder Titouan La Roux who gained valuable experience last year. Senior midfielder Kevin Feucht who had a team leading eleven goals in 2016 looks to be the key to UCSB's offensive productivity in 2017. Sophomore forward Ignacio Tellechea who was an NAIA All-American at West Virginia Tech last year is among the newcomers who could be a difference maker.

North Carolina State - The Wolfpack have appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of thirteen times but have been absent from the field since the 2009 season including the 2016 season during which they were 5-12-0 overall with a 1-7-0 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play. 

Kelly Findley who served as the N.C. State head coach from 2011 through 2016 has been replaced by George Kiefer who comes to Raleigh after a very successful fifteen year tenure as the head coach at the University of South Florida. During those fifteen season, South Florida earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament ten times. Findley is a very good coach who assumed the Wolfpack head coach role after a successful four year tenure as the head coach at Butler. Unfortunately, Findley was never able to turn the corner at N.C. State during his six year tenure in Raleigh where he was 45-51-13 overall with a total of only nine wins in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. 

It is an understatement to say that Kiefer has his work cut out for him but he is a competitor and great recruiter who looks to be up to the task in front of him and a good fit to lead the program.  Evidence of that is reflected in the fact that Kiefer has already added a very highly regarded recruiting class that includes several players who could have an immediate impact. In addition, the hiring of Jeff Negalha, who is very familiar with the ACC, as the associate head coach looks to be a big plus. Negalha has served as an assistant coach at both North Carolina and Boston College and worked for a while under Kiefer at South Florida. 

N.C. State may not return to the NCAA Tourney field in 2017 but you can count on it being among team goals. Chances are pretty good that Kiefer will get the Pack back in the NCAA Tourney field sooner rather than later.

SMU - Will the real SMU men's soccer program please stand up.  Perhaps no team in the country had more of an unexpected swing in their win total in 2016 as compared to 2015 than the Mustangs. The problem is that it was a disappointing, puzzling, and unexpected swing downward rather than upward.

In 2015 the Mustangs generated a lot of momentum and excitement under the direction of then first year head coach Kevin Hudson when they roared to a 15-3-4 overall  record with a  7-0-1 mark in American Athletic Conference play that included a berth in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and a run to the  Sweet Sixteen. 

Hudson  replaced Tim McClements who had served as the Mustang mentor for eight seasons. During his tenure McClements recorded a 68-46-16 record that included a ten win season in 2014 and a three win season in 2013 during which SMU, which is normally a staple in the NCAA Tournament, did not earn a berth.   

With a solid core of returning players in 2016 expectations were high at SMU as reflected in the fact that the Mustangs were ranked as the number eleven team in the nation in the NSCAA Preseason Poll and the number ten team in the College Soccer News preseason poll.  However things didn't go as expected as SMU struggled from the get-go and ended the 2016 campaign with a 6-9-1 overall record and a 2-4-1 overall record in AAC play. 

The Mustangs will enter the 2017 season looking solid on paper once again with the likes of senior forward Mauro Cichero, junior midfielder Emil Cuello, senior defender Jordan Cano, senior goalkeeper Michael Nelson and sophomore forward Garrett McLaughlin among a talented group that is slated to return. 

The potential clearly exists for SMU to rebound and return to the NCAA Tournament field in 2017 but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to put all the pieces back together and return to the level of play they displayed in 2015.

UMass Lowell - No one really anticipated the type of season that UMass Lowell would have in 2016. The Riverhawks were in their fourth and final transition season of play at the Division I level in 2016 and therefore not eligible for post season play. 

UMass Lowell was predicted to finish at the bottom of the standings in the preseason America East preseason poll. The Riverhawks exceeded expectations with a  breakthrough season during which they were 13-1-2 overall and secured the America East regular season title with a 5-1-1 mark in conference play. 

UMass Lowell would have been the frontrunner to win the America East Conference Tournament and claim the  league's automatic berth into the 2016 NCAA Tournament had they been eligible to participate in the America East Tournament. Chances are pretty good that they would have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tourney with an at-large berth even if they didn't win the tournament. 

Coach Christian Figueroa will enter the 2017 season with several  very big shoes to fill due to the graduation of All-American midfielder Wuilito Fernandes (11g, 5a) who was the 2016 American East Striker of the Year, midfielder Carlos Ruiz (3g, 3a) who was a three-year starter, and back Eric Martin who was honored as the 2016 America East Defender of the Year.  Despite the losses there are plenty of reasons to feel good about the Riverhawks' chances of taking the program a step further in 2017 and claiming their first berth in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I team. 

Eight starters are slated to return including redshirt sophomore forward Ivan Abramovic (9g, 8a) who was named the 2016 America East Rookie of the Year, junior midfielder Jakov Basic (0g, 1a) who was a 2016 America East First Team selection,  sophomore midfielders Dario Jovanovski (0g, 8a) and Joe Kellett who now have a year of starting experience under their belts, senior midfielder Federico Ferre (0g, 2a), sophomore defender Ivan Blaskic, junior defender  Franky Martinez, and senior  Justin Kroll who was the 2016 America East Goalkeeper of the Year.

Ohio State - The Buckeyes looked to be a team on a roll after earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 followed by a very impressive 2015 season in which they secured thirteen wins including five in conference play, won the Big Ten Regular Season title, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. 

Ohio State entered the 2016 season with a solid core of returning players supplemented by a very good recruiting class.  As a result the Buckeyes were ranked in both the NSCAA and College Soccer News preseason polls as the number eighteen team in the country. 

Unfortunately the Buckeyes fell way short of preseason expectations recording a  5-13-1 overall record and a 3-4-1 mark in conference play.  The Buckeyes opened the season with losses in five of their first six contests and never seemed to be able to get back on track. It warrants pointing out that Ohio State faced adversity and key injuries that likely had an impact on their productivity. 

Ohio State will enter the 2017 season with several voids to fill due to the graduation of forward Danny Jensen (4g, 3a) and backs Austin Bergstrom and Tyler Kidwell among others. On the other hand, a very solid core of players return for a program that has shown a lot of resilience and determination in the past. 

Senior forward Nate Kohl (6g, 2a) and junior midfielder Abdi Mohamed (4g, 3a) are back to lead the attack. Senior back Hunter Robertson who has been a starter since arriving in Columbus, senior back Niall Logue who was a starter last year and redshirt sophomore Parker Siegfried who now has the benefit of a year of starting experience in goal give Ohio State head coach John Bluem a solid foundation upon which to retool the defense.  It is also a big plus that the Buckeyes have added another very highly regarded recruiting class that includes transfers Michael Prosuk, Kevin Blackwood, and Jake Scheper along with several  freshmen who appear capable of hitting the ground running. 

Ohio State opens the 2017 season with contests at home against Pittsburgh, Florida International, Lehigh and Wright State before traveling to open Big Ten play against a Northwestern team that will also be hungry to rebound in 2017.  A successful outcome in those contests look to be an important ingredient for a team that needs to gel early, build momentum and confidence, and resume playing at the level that they did in 2015. 

Georgetown - The Hoyas were one of the more noteworthy absences from the 2016 NCAA Tournament field.  Georgetown emerged as a force on the national scene in 2012 when they advanced to the national championship contest. They followed that up with appearances in the NCAA Tourney in  2013, 2014 and 2015. The Hoyas looked to have reached the point where they reloaded rather than rebuilt but that was not the case entering into the 2016 campaign when they had more holes to plug due to graduation and early departures to enter the professional ranks than a piece of Swiss cheese. 

Regardless, based on the level of success the program has enjoyed over the past few seasons it seemed unlikely that Georgetown would experience a major drop off in the level of their play.  As a result, it was a bit of a surprise when the Hoyas were 6-9-2 overall with a 3-4-2 mark in Big East Conference play in 2016. Without a big playmaker on the offensive side of the ball the Blue and Grey managed a total of only seventeen goals in 2016 which was a noticeable decline in productivity for a team that averaged over thirty-seven goals per season for the previous four years. 

It is not clear where the scoring will come from in 2017. The key returning forwards, senior Zach Knudson and sophomore Achara, only netted a single goal each last year.  Perhaps one of the newcomers will step up and help fill the void. 

The backline and play in goal look to be team strengths with defenders Brendan McDonald, Peter Schropp, Kyle Zajec and Dylan Nealis who were starters last year slated to return along with highly regarded junior goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski who has been the starter for the past two seasons.  

Georgetown will be eager to get back on track in 2017. Chances are pretty good that head coach Brian Wiese will reload and get back into the Big East title hunt and the NCAA Tourney but it may take a year or two for that to occur. Georgetown's Big East schedule in 2017 is favorable in that they host frontrunners Butler, Providence and Creighton which is always a slight advantage.

Connecticut - The Huskies have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament seventeen times in the last nineteen seasons.  The outlook for a relatively young Connecticut team looked bright heading into the 2016 season with most everyone from the 2015 squad that had secured ten wins and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament returning.  

During the twenty seasons to date that Ray Reid has been at the helm of the UConn program, the Huskies have become one of the teams you expect to be in the NCAA Tournament field every season. Unfortunately for the Connecticut faithful the 2016 campaign was an exception.

Connecticut jumped out to a 10-3-0 overall record last year  with a 3-0-0 mark in America East Conference play that included a seven game win streak during which time they outscored opponents sixteen to two they looked to be headed for another berth in 2016. 

However,  the Huskies uncharacteristically stumbled down the home stretch going 1-4-1 in their last six contests during which time they managed a total of only two goals while allowing eight. 

The Huskies hoped to recover by winning the AAE Conference Tournament where they faced a Tulsa team in the semifinals that they had topped 1-0 on the road during regular season play.  A disappointing 2-0 loss in that contest  brought to close UConn's  2016 season with a respectable 11-7-1 overall record, a  3-3-1 mark in conference play which was good for a third place finish,  and a season ending RPI of forty-four which was no doubt impacted by their play down the home stretch.  

While a case can be made that the Huskies who had signature non-conference wins over Providence and Boston College,deserved an at-large berth, none was forthcoming.  As a result, Connecticut belongs on the short list of teams that will be highly motivated and eager to return to the NCAA Tourney field in 2017. 

Junior forward Abdou Thiam (10g, 4a) who has powered UConn's  offense the past two seasons,  senior holding midfielder Cheikh Coly who has been a starter for the past three seasons, sophomore midfielders Munir Saleh and Niko Petridis, sophomore center back Jacob Hauser-Ramsey,  and redshirt senior Scott Levene who has been the starter in goal for the past three seasons are among key returning players.


Top Assistant Coaches 2016

May 16, 2017 - The 2016 college soccer season is now history and the focus has shifted to the upcoming 2017 campaign. However, College Soccer News annually seeks to recognize assistant coaches across the country who are excelling at their work. Our selections for 2016 include familiar faces and a few new ones. In making these selections we acknowledge up-front that some very deserving assistant coaches will be left out as is always the case when individuals are singled out for recognition.

The current selections continue our trend over the past several seasons of placing additional weight on team success on the field of play in 2016 in the selection criteria.

There are many very good assistant coaches in the collegiate ranks across the nation who have a very positive impact on college soccer. The very best are effective teachers, communicators, motivators, and recruiters. The most effective ones relate well to the players they coach while maintaining their respect.

Successful head coaches are first to emphasize the valuable role that their assistants play in the level of success a program achieves. The very best assistance coaches are soccer and people savvy mentors who understand their role and are totally aligned with the direction of the head coach. 

Assistant coaches recognized in past years by College Soccer News who are now head coaches include Kevin Grimes at California, Cameron Rast at Santa Clara, Bill Irwin formerly at Portland, Robert McCourt at Monmouth, Bobby Muus at Denver and Wake Forest, Mike Jacobs formerly at Evansville, Todd Yeagley at Indiana, Jesse Comier at Vermont and FGCU, Kelly Findley formerly at North Carolina State, Erik Ronning at Colgate, Brian Wiese at Georgetown, Darren Powell formerly at Elon, Damon Rensing at Michigan State, Jamie Clark at Washington, Kevin Anderson at Columbia, Sean Phillips at UIC, Eric Pogue at Oakland, Ralph Polson at Wofford, Scott Calabrese at FIU and UCF, Brad Ruzzo at Mercer, Andy Fleming at Xavier, Carlos Somoano at North Carolina, Ryan Anatol at Stony Brook, Johan Cedergren at Kentucky, Jared Embick at Akron, Chris Volk formerly at UC Irvine, Kylie Stannard at Yale, Mario Sanchez at SIUE, Nick Carlin-Voigt at Portland and John Murphy at Georgia Southern.   


Johnny Torres


Torres enters his eleventh season as a member of the coaching staff at Creighton in 2017 and seventh under head coach Elmar Bolowich. Prior to that he had a banner career as a player at Creighton during which he was a two-time national player of the year followed by a professional career in the MLS. Creighton was 13-7-3 overall in 2016 and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 24th time in the past 25 seasons. They then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tourney for the third time consecutive season. The Bluejays were ranked as the number fifteen team in the country by the NSCAA in their final season ending poll and in the number seventeen spot by College Soccer News. 

Brian Maisonneuve


Maisonneuve will begin his eighth seaons as a member of the Indiana coaching staff in 2017. He played at IU from 1991 through 1994 during which time he was a two-time All-American selection and the Hermann Trophy winner his senior season. He played with the Columbus Crew for nine seasons in the MLS and served as an assistant coach with the U.S. U-17 National Team for four years and at the University of Louisville for two seasons prior to returning to Bloomington in 2010 as a member of the coaching staff. Indiana was 12-2-7 overall in 2016. They earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 30th straight season, were awarded the number seven seed, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the 36th time in the storied history of the IU program. 

Mike Miller


Miller will enter his second season as an associate head coach at Connecticut under the direction of Ray Reid. Miller is highly regarded by Reid who stated, "Michael is a tireless recruiter and one of the best in college soccer. " Connecticut was 11-7-1 overall in 2016. Miller's resume prior to that includes serving as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duke for three seasons, as an assistant coach at Syracuse for four seasons, as an assistant coach at Evansville for four seasons, and a one year stint as an assistant at North Florida. Miller was an outstanding goalkeeper as a collegiate player at Jacksonville University where he received a bachelor's degree in physical educuation.  

Dane Brenner 

Wake Forest 

The High Point, North Carolina native will enter his seventh season as an assistant coach at Wake Forest in 2017 where he has served under head coach Bobby Muuss for the past two seasons. Brenner serves as the Demon Deacons recruiting cooordinator and focuses primarily on the play on the defensive side of the ball. Brenner is a former four year starter in goal at South Florida where he was an All-Conference USA selection. Brenner also served as an assistant coach at Connecticut for four seasons under Ray Reid. Wake Forest had another banner season in 2016 with a 19-3-3 overall record. They were the number two seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced  to the national championship contest where they were edged 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout by Stanford after the contest was scoreless at the conclusion of regulation and overtime. 

Grant Porter

North Carolina

Porter begins his seventh season as an assistant coach at North Carolina under the guidance of head Carlos Somoano. Porter, who is Tar Heel born and breed, hails from Charlotte, North Carolina where he played at Providence Day High School before having a banner career as a player at UNC from 2000 through 2003 during which time he was was a four-year starter and key member of the 2001 national championship team. Porter's duties as a Tar Heel assistant coach pretty much include all aspects of the program. North Carolina was 14-3-4 overall in 2016. They had a stellar season in which they were awarded the number nine seed in the NCAA Tournament and played their way into the College Cup for the seventh time in the history of the program.    

John Mark Andrade


Andrade will enter his ninth season as an member of the Providence coaching staff and his fourth as the associate head coach under head coach Craig Stewart. Andrade served as the head coach at Dean College in 2008 before coming to Providence in 2009 under then head coach Chaka Daley who is now the head coach at Michigan. Andrade was a four-year starter at Syracuse where he was an All-Big East selection in 2000 and 2001 and team captain in 2001. He then played professionally in Portugal for Maritimo F.C. and Fafe F.C. In 2016, Providence was 15-7-0 with a 7-2-0 mark in Big East Play. The Friars claimed the Big East Regular Season title for the first time in the history of the program in 2016. They capped off a successful season with a brilliant run in the NCAA Tournament advancing past Delaware, number one seeded Maryland, and Creighton in the NCAA Tournament before falling to UNC 1-0 in the Elite Eight. 

Phil Jones


Jones begins his eighth season as a member of Mike Noonan's coaching staff at Clemson in 2017 and his seventh as the associate head coach. In 2009 Jones served under Noonan as an assistant coach at Brown. Prior to that he was an assistant coach for four seasons at his alma mater Embry-Riddle where he was a four-time All-Florida Sun Conference selection as a player from 1999 through 2002. Under Noonan's direction, Jones has been a part of a major resurgence at Clemson. The Tigers have earned five consecutive berths in the NCAA Tournament. In 2015 Clemson had a banner season in which they were 17-3-4 overall and advanced to the College Cup and the NCAA National Final. In 2016, the Tigers were 14-4-5 overall and played their way into the Elite Eight.   

Brian Rowland


Veteran Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski speaks highly of the contribution that Rowland makes as a member of the Terp coacing staff. Rowland will enter his seventh season as an assistant coach at Maryland in 2017 and third as the Terp associate head coach. Before becoming the associate head coach Roland served as the Terp recruiting coordinator. A former four-year starter in goal and two-time captain as a collegiate player for UMBC, Rowland's has played a key role in developing several very solid Maryland goalkeepers. The Terps were 18-1-2 overall in 2016 with a program record fifteen game winning streak and a 7-0-1 mark in Big Ten play. They claimed the Big Ten Regular Season and Tournament Titles and were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Ryan Hopkins


Hopkins begins his fifth season as an assistant coach at Denver in 2017 and his third under head coach Jamie Franks who became the Pioneer head coach in 2015. Hopkins works primarily on the defensive side of the ball with a focus on the play in goal. He has helped develop a tenacious Denver defense that allowed a total of only eight goals in 2015 and thirteen in 2016 when they led the nation with a 0.46 goals against average. Hopkins also served as an assistant coach at Wisconsin for a year and at Cal Poly for four seasons. The Pioneers reached new heights in 2016 going where no other Denver team has every gone before with a 20-1-3 overall record that included the program's first ever trip to the College Cup. The Pioneers became the first team in 2016 since Clemson back in 1977-1978 to secure back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons. The Denver coacing staff was named the 2016 National Coaching Staff of the Year by the NSCAA.    

Leonard Griffin


Griffin was hired by Portland head coach Nick Carlin-Voight in 2016 where he contributed to all aspects of the program including recruiting. He previously served as an assistant coach at his alma mater UCLA in 2014 and 2015 under Jorge Salcedo. His resume also includes one season as an assistant coach at California in 2013 under Kevin Grimes and three seasons as an assistant at Saint Mary's. Griffin played at UCLA from 2000 through 2003 during which he named an All-American in 2013 and helped the Bruins secure a National Championship in 2002. He also played six seasons in the MLS. Portland made a big jump forward in 2016 winning the WCC Title for the first time since 2002 and returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since the 2009 campaign. 

Bob Thompson

UMass Lowell 

Thompson will enter his fourth season at UMass Lowell in 2017 under head coach Christian Figueroa and his first as the associate head coach. UMass Lowell was 13-1-2 overall in 2016 and captured the America East Regular season championship for the first time in program history. They were in their fourth and final season of the Division I transition period in 2016 and therefore ineligible for postseason play. Thompson served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in 2012 and 2013 under Ed Kelly at his alma mater Boston College. While a collegiate player under Kelly's guidance, he had a productive career that included being named the MVP of the Big East Tourney as a sophomore in 2000 and again as a senior in 2002 when the Eagles advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Thompson was the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Tufts in 2011. Thompson's resume also includes three seasons as an assistant at Northeastern. 

Jukka Masalin


Masalin will enter his sixth season as a member of Ian McIntyre's coaching staff at Syracuse and his fourth as the associate head coach. He is involved in all aspects of the program including recruiting, player training and development, game preparation, and scouting. Syracuse has emerged as a force on the national scene earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament four out of the past five seasons and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen the past three seasons. The Orange were awarded the number eight seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament and finished the season with a solid 12-4-4 overall record. Their accomplishments in 2016  included a 0.57 goals-against-average which was the fifth best in the nation. Masalin's coaching resume also includes experience as an assistant coach at Hartwick in 2008 and 2009 and as the head assistant coach for the Atlanta Silverbacks in the USL First Divison from 2004-2007. 

Ben Pirmann

Michigan State 

Pirmann will begin his seventh season as an assistant coach at Michigan State in 2017 under the guidance of head coach Damon Rensing who has been at the helm of the Spartan program since 2009. Rensing stated, "Ben has been a part of some of the most important games and most successful seasons in recent history at MSU." Michigan State rebounded from a 8-9-2 overall record in 2015 to improve to 13-5-2 overall in 2016 to earn the program's sixth berth in the NCAA Tournament in the past eight seasons. Pirmann was a four-year letterman and three year starter as a collegiate player at Michigan State. He is involved in all aspects of the program as a member of the Spartan coaching staff. Prior to returning to East Lansing, Pirmann was an assistant coach at Western Michigan for two seasons and currently holds a National B license.