By: Cade Cavin
For any athletic team, the purpose it aims to achieve is simple: win. Point Loma Nazarene University women’s soccer head coach Kristi Kiely has done just that in her six seasons at the helm of PLNU women’s soccer.
Leading the Sea Lions to a 77-15-10 record across her tenure so far, accounting for a winning percentage of .800, it would be hard for one to argue that Kiely has not been successful in her time at Loma.
On top of her impressive record, Kiely has raked in four conference championships, NCAA tournament berths in all five full seasons she has coached (no tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and of course, that coveted National Championship.
According to Kiely, her illustrious career began when she attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
“In college, I coached at FCSB (a club team in Santa Barbara),” Kiely said. “One of my coaches at Westmont asked me to help her.”
She explained that early in her life, she developed a love for stewardship, which grew into a passion for coaching that was cultivated at her alma mater, Westmont College, in 2008.
“I always enjoyed leadership and teaching and watching people reach their goals or grow in something they aspired to be better at,” said Kiely. “I often found myself in leadership positions growing up.”
Kiely went on to be named head coach at her alma mater in 2010, where she won three consecutive national titles as a player from 2001-2003. After a successful five-year tenure with the Warriors, in which she led the team to four consecutive NAIA tournament berths including a title game appearance, she took a job as head assistant coach at DI University of Arkansas where she helped lead the Razorbacks to the most wins in school history.
Kiely said that although coaching at the DI level in a conference with a reputation like the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is a different world when compared to PLNU’s conference — the PacWest — at the end of the day it is still soccer.
“There are so many resources in the SEC and that was fun,” said Kiely. “It gives you the opportunity to work with top talent across the entire country. You have access to great facilities, travel is more convenient and the budget seems to be endless. And yet, my players here [at PLNU] seem to deeply love the game, and we work hard to care well for one another.”
Kiely emphasized that although she appreciates her time at Arkansas and what it taught her, the players she coaches every day at PLNU want to be here and want to better themselves.
“I value that more than I value riding in a charter plane,” she said.
Coming off of the single most successful season in PLNU women’s soccer history, and arguably PLNU athletics in general, Kiely highlighted the work this year’s squad put in and the pressure they overcame every match.
“The national title is the byproduct of who we are. I think I’m proud of the title because it’s the culmination of all of the work,” Kiely said. “We are a group that demands much of each other on the field and works to care for one another in deep and meaningful ways off of it.”
The focus of Kiely’s coaching philosophy, the same philosophy that helped lead this team up the proverbial mountain top, is rooted in her love for the game and the joy she derives from helping others grow.
“After my first season coaching I realized I enjoyed it, that I had gifting in it,” Kiely said. “I love coaching for a lot of reasons and mostly because I love the game. I love watching young people grow, and I want to pass along all I’ve learned through this game.”