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Women’s soccer coach passes program’s founder in wins

Nick Reddy

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Kim Sutton encourges players

Kim Sutton encourages players during a practice last season. Orion file photo.

There have only been two head coaches in the history of the Chico State women’s soccer program. Earlier this season, one passed the other in the NCAA Division II history.

Head coach Kim Sutton recently earned her 187th win, passing Bob Russ, the only other coach in the team’s history, for 31st all time. Wins aside, there’s a lot of history between these two soccer coaches.

From its inception back in 1973 as a club team, to achieving varsity team status 10 years later, Russ is credited with starting the program. He went on to coach for 18 years, 28 including club time. At the time of his retirement in 2001, Russ had totaled 186 wins. He was inducted into the Chico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 as an honorary member for his coaching and teaching contributions to the university and local soccer community.

Enter Kim Sutton, who took over for Russ in 2001. In her 14 years leading the Wildcats, Sutton has racked up 133 wins as of Sept. 30. Chico State topped Dominican University 2-0 to secure Sutton’s 187th career win at the NCAA Division II level Sept. 19. There isn’t another Division II school in the country that has two coaches ranked among the top 40 in career wins.

Sutton and Russ go back to Sutton’s own playing days, when she went up against Russ and her future team.

“I played against Chico State and Bob Russ when I was a player myself [at Sonoma State],” Sutton said.

Sutton also coached against Russ when she was the head coach at Humboldt State, a program she ran from 1995 to 2000 and elevated from club to varsity status.

“They were always a team you had to be well prepared to play,” she said.

Part of the reason why Sutton has continued the success started by Russ is her coaching style.

Brianna Furner, a senior goalkeeper, said she is grateful to have been coached by Sutton since she was a freshman in 2011.

“My experience with (Sutton) these past three years has been more than amazing,” she said. “She is more than a coach. She is like a second mom, therapist, nutritionist and everything in between.”

Sutton’s deep investment in the players on the team is what makes her coaching so special, Furner said.

“She cares about this team,” she said. “Every decision she makes is made with the love and passion she has for this team and the girls on it. This allows it to be very easy for us as players to create a similar passion and love for this program. She is an amazing person and it’s a blessing to have been coached by her for my entire collegiate career.”

Sutton said Russ attended the season’s first home match against Seattle Pacific University, a 1-0 Wildcat victory, showing his continued involvement in the program.

“He always comes to a few games during the year,” Sutton said. “He’s very supportive.”

She had no idea she was approaching Russ’ mark, and that it wasn’t something she kept track of, she said. She hopes to finish her coaching career at Chico State, and she has a long way to go before even thinking about retirement. But she was honored to surpass Russ, whom she played against, coached against and ultimately replaced.

“It’s a very flattering, humbling thing to surpass your mentor and colleague and coach that I really respect,” Sutton said.

Nick Reddy can be reached at [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.

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Women’s soccer coach passes program’s founder in wins