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Mark Collings Steps Down As SPU Men's Soccer Coach
The GNAC's all-time winningest men's soccer coach, Mark Collings replaced legendary SPU coach Cliff McGrath in 2008. Photo by Andrew Towell.
The GNAC's all-time winningest men's soccer coach, Mark Collings replaced legendary SPU coach Cliff McGrath in 2008. Photo by Andrew Towell.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021
by Seattle Pacific Athletic Communications

SEATTLE – Mark Collings, who guided the Seattle Pacific men's soccer team to a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships and five NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, has resigned as head coach of the Falcons.
 
Collings, who built a solid 129-68-32 record in his 13 years at the helm, said personal reasons and the chance to pursue other professional opportunities factored into his decision to step down.

 

"This has been a difficult decision. During my time at SPU, I aimed to build a program that was committed to consistency with a foundation that was aligned with the university," Collings said. "After much reflection, I decided to step down from my position as head coach. I feel it would be best for someone else to lead the men's soccer program moving forward.  I have been presented with an incredible opportunity to continue my coaching career and I'm looking forward to my new challenge." 
 
SPU athletic director Jackson Stava was fully appreciative of Collings' many contributions not only to the soccer program but to the athletic department as a whole.
 
"While Mark's decision to move on certainly was a surprise and not at all planned, I support his decision and am thankful for the transparency, honesty, and integrity he showed in this decision process," Stava said. "His impact has made this place better, more mission-focused, and a better place for the growth of our students."

"Thank you does not fully encompass the gratitude I have for Mark and his time leading SPU men's soccer," Stava added.  "Mark has led with integrity, character, faith, excellence, and consistency and imparted those same attributes on each and every young man he had the opportunity to coach. His success as a player, assistant, and head coach is truly remarkable and he will be missed dearly."

Kevin Sakuda, the lead assistant for the SPU women's program for the past four years, will take charge of the men's team for the entirety of the 2021 season. A decision on a permanent head coach will not be made until after the season concludes.
 
FROM FALCONS PLAYER TO FALCONS COACH
Collings played his college soccer with SPU from 1995-98. He joined the staff of legendary head coach Cliff McCrath in 2003 as an assistant, serving in that role for five seasons before being appointed as head coach in February 2008.
 
Seattle Pacific's most successful stretch under Collings was from 2011-15. The Falcons went 67-14-16 during those five years (46-8-12 in conference play) making the NCAAs each of those five seasons.

 

The 2011 and 2014 squads each reached the West Region championship match. The '14 team went 16-2-2 overall, won 13 straight games and had a 15-game unbeaten streak, both of which were school records. Those Falcons also went 12-1-1 in conference play for the program's first outright GNAC championship. (SPU shared the title in 2006.)
 
The 2015 team reached the West semis, finishing 14-1-4 overall, a program record for fewest losses in a season. Those Falcons were ranked as high as No. 3 nationally.
 
Collings' final season was the most unusual, not only for his team but for the entire country. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the regular fall campaign in 2020 and a unique, abbreviated schedule was played during the spring of 2021. The GNAC did not sponsor a conference season and there were no NCAA playoffs.

The Falcons played six counting games in 2020-21 and compiled a 3-2-1 record while outscoring opponents, 12-9.
 
Collings was voted by his peers as the GNAC Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2015, and Co-Coach of the Year in 2014.
 
He was just the third head coach in the 47-year history of the Seattle Pacific men's soccer program.

JUMPING RIGHT INTO THINGS
Sakuda had a nine-year professional career, including six seasons with United Soccer Leagues version of the Seattle Sounders before that club made the move to Major League Soccer. He was a volunteer assistant coach with the SPU women in 2015 and 2016 before being elevated to lead assistant in the spring of 2017.
 
"I am thrilled to have Kevin step in and lead the men's soccer program," Stava said.  "Kevin's pedigree as a player is special and I know he will lead with the same characteristics that have always been the calling card of SPU men's soccer.  Furthermore, I know that Kevin will lead a team that plays a courageous and exciting brand of soccer, while he leads from a place of service and humility."

Sakuda said the chance to lead his own team has been a long-time goal. While this door opened unexpectedly, he is eager to step through it.

"When Jackson approached me about it, I was excited about the opportunity," Sakuda said. "I was telling the women that we talk to them a lot about being brave and taking a risk and having the courage to play soccer in a certain way. I think this is an opportunity (for me) to step into that role and kind of practice what we've been preaching to them.
 
With training camp starting in just three weeks, Sakuda knows he'll have a full plate of work between now and then.
 
"It is what it is – I don't know if there's ever a perfect time," he said. "But in some ways, it forces me to just dive in and do it, and not overthink it. I'm in the process of connecting with all the guys. The first step is to get to know them and let them get to know me."
 
A product of Mission San Jose (Calif.) High School, Sakuda lettered three years on the Duke University men's soccer squad before graduating in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and markets.
 
He was selected by San Jose in the third round, the 39th pick overall, of the 2002 MLS SuperDraft.
 
Sakuda made 148 appearances as a defender with the USL from 2003-08. He played with the Montreal Impact in 2009 and the Austin Aztex in 2009-10.
 
He also played in the Major Indoor Soccer League from 2002-05 with the San Diego Sockers.

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