In his three years at the helm of the Rebels, Mario Sanchez has turned around the fortunes of the men's soccer program and has it on a solid track back to a previous level of one of the top programs in the West.
Last season, UNLV 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 as it stood 5-2-1 at the end of the non-conference slate. 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.
The 2007 season showed everyone what kind of coach UNLV had in Sanchez after the team suffered though a one-win season in 2006 in which he was only able to bring in three of his own players due to roster limitations. However, the offseason between his first and second years showed that better days were ahead for UNLV. Sanchez brought in a very talented class of 11 players, including one of the top recruits in the nation in Cruz.
Sanchez's recruiting efforts paid off immediately, as Cruz was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Year and was a third team freshman All-American, while another newcomer, Andrew Friel, was selected to the All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation second team. Mixing in the newcomers with the veterans, Sanchez guided the squad to a 7-10-3 mark, the most wins since 2002. 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 first season at the helm of the Rebels, Sanchez was dealt an inexperienced team that struggled at the beginning, but improved with each outing, and finished the year with a 2-0 win over 20th-ranked Denver.
Sanchez came to Las Vegas from Akron, where he was an assistant coach for the men's soccer program from 2003-2005. While on the Zips staff, he helped guide the program to three NCAA 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.
UNLV was not Sanchez's first exposure to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as he was an assistant coach at Fresno State from 1999-2003 until the school dropped its men's soccer program. While in Fresno, he was also a staff coach for the Olympic Development Program Region IV from 2000-2003, and was an ODP coach for the Ohio North ODP program from November of 2003 until leaving for Las Vegas.
Also, in the summer of 2006, Sanchez was named head coach for the West Region 90s Boys Age Group team. He coached in an international tournament in Italy in April of 2007, and with a team that included Cruz, guided them to the semifinals of the 16-team tournament.
Currently, Sanchez is in his fourth year as the head coach for the U-17 Regional ODP Team.
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.
Sanchez is married to the former Shana Stickel. They have four children: sons Sebastian (5) and Santiago (1), and daughters Ella (4) and Emme (born on May 2, 2009.)
RECORD AS HEAD COACH