Beloved Athenas Soccer Coach to Leave Claremont

It’s hard to know where to begin when measuring the impact of a soccer coach like Keri Sanchez. One can begin with her Claremont-Mudd-Scripps numbers: 13 seasons, 131 wins, six SCIAC championships, and 58 players coached onto the All-SCIAC team.

One can then examine her personal accomplishments: she was a U.S. National Team member, a four-time NCAA champion with the University of North Carolina, where she played alongside Mia Hamm, as well as Mercury News’ High School Player of the Decade for the 1980s, and a Hall of Fame inductee in her hometown of San Jose. However, these stats paint an incomplete picture of Sanchez’s contributions.

Sanchez came to CMS after serving as an assistant coach at the University of Oregon for seven years, where she was assigned by the National Team in an effort to improve a lower-level program. In hiring Sanchez, CMS administrators knew that they were not only getting an acclaimed soccer player, but also someone who understood the Division III approach to athletics.

“We knew about the four NCAA titles in North Carolina and Mia [Hamm] being her roommate, but Keri was also a four-time Academic All-American," said former CMS Athletic Director Mike Sutton. "It was that appreciation of the balance of school. We just knew that she would be a great role model for our women. We have watched the steady growth of our women’s program in terms of numbers and all the benchmarks we have here — competition and academic achievements.”

From her first visit to the Claremont Colleges, Sanchez was as hooked on CMS as it was on her.

“I still remember my visit here and what probably sells students, and sold me, on the school is just how friendly and outgoing people were," she said. "Whenever I’m talking to parents of prospective students, that’s what I always tell them."

Sanchez’s colleagues and players stressed that her “let’s go!” attitude was unparalleled in their lives.

Katelyn Faust CM ’17 said that Coach Sanchez always pushed the importance of physical fitness. However, unlike many coaches, she works as hard physically as her players do. She’s famous for making her players run “the cooper” every preseason, which entails running seven laps in twelve minutes.

“We all hate it,” Faust said. “But one thing that she’ll do is run the Cooper with us — she’ll pace it. Keri really practices what she preaches. I never had a coach before her who was willing to put in as much work as the players. It makes you want to deliver.” 

Current CMS Athetic Director Terrance Tumey has worked with a lot of great coaches throughout his career, but considers Sanchez one of the best.

“The really good coaches, no matter what’s going on around them or what ‘the game gives you,’ they figure out how to relate to their players and are consistent thematically on what they are doing," he said. "That’s what Keri does amazingly well."

Sanchez’s devotion to her team is reflected in her players' devotion to the sport. Herein lies the beauty of Division III athletics, according to Sanchez.

“There’s no money riding on it; it gets a little tainted sometimes at the [Division I] level," Sanchez said. “In [Division III] you’re choosing to play. This is one of the best places to be because the hard work and commitment that show up in the classroom is what shows up on the field.”

In her time at CMS, Sanchez was known to support her players in their off-field endeavors. She and her son Bryce, the team manager, are regarded as an important presence in players’ lives, and Sanchez was no stranger to players’ violin concerts and rugby matches — in the offseason, of course.

(MJ Coppock • The Student Life)

Coach Sanchez will continue her coaching career as an assistant to former college teammate Angela Kelly at the University of Texas. She stressed that the decision was difficult, and that she is grateful that CMS gave her the chance to become a head coach. She certainly ended her CMS career on a high note, leading the Athenas to a 17-6-1 record — their best effort in program history — and the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“I’m at a time of my life when I can make the move a little easier, so I’m going to gamble,” Sanchez said.