–Release courtesy of the University of Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. — Cheryl Sorenson, a Portland native who has spent the past three years on The Bluff as an assistant coach, has been named head coach of the University of Portland women’s basketball program. Sorenson replaces long-time head coach Jim Sollars, who retired after 28 years at the helm of the Pilots. She is the fifth head coach in the program’s 34-year history.
“We’re very excited to have Cheryl become the next head women’s basketball coach at the University of Portland,” Athletic Director Scott Leykam said. “She was among our short list of candidates from the very start of this process. Cheryl has received other coaching offers during her time at UP, and we’ve been fortunate to keep her on the staff through those searches. We knew she would be a Division I head coach soon and are happy that it is going to happen right here on The Bluff.”
Sorenson, who attended Clackamas High School and played collegiately at the University of Washington, has assisted in every aspect of the Portland program the past three years, including managing Portland’s defense, directing the development of the post players and assisting with recruiting.
“I would like to thank Athletic Director Scott Leykam, University President Fr. Bill Beauchamp, President-elect Fr. Mark Poorman, and the search committee for this great opportunity,” Sorenson said. “I am honored to be the next head coach at the University of Portland. UP offers a product that is invaluable as far as quality of education, growth and leadership possibilities, and opportunities to compete for championships. We want to be locally active in both recruiting and community involvement and develop lasting relationships. I think fans will be excited about the product we put on the court. We will be easy to root for and fun to watch.”
Sorenson replaces coach Sollars (a former Wenatchee Valley College head coach), who compiled nearly 400 wins with the Pilots and won 565 games overall as a collegiate head coach. Sollars was a five-time WCC Coach of the Year and he led the Pilots to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments during the mid-1990’s.
“Coach Sollars built a tradition of pride and excellence during his 28 years at the helm and I am excited to be in position to continue that growth,” added Sorenson. “Portland has been my home for the majority of my life so I am thrilled to be starting the next chapter of my life here.”
"Today starts a new era for University of Portland women’s basketball, but we’re forever thankful for what Jim Sollars did in his 28 years as head coach at UP,” said Leykam. “His impact on the women’s basketball program, Athletic Department and University will be felt for years to come."
The future is bright for the UP program as the Pilots return most of their roster from the 2013-14 season, including leading scorers Cassandra Brown (14.1 ppg), Jasmine Wooton (13.1 ppg) and Kari Luttinen (12.9 ppg). Both Brown and Wooton garnered All-WCC recognition this season.
“We have a strong group of returning players that have us positioned us to be successful right away,” Sorenson noted. “The veterans have had some success, but I think they were disappointed with how last year ended and I know that they’re hungry and eager to win more than ever. I think we have the players here that can build the culture and provide the leadership to make us consistent winners. I want my personality to show in how we play: tough, gritty and hard-working. We will practice hard and be aggressive on the court.”
“I think the whole team is very excited to have coach Cheryl as our new head coach,” said Luttinen. “She has a lot of experience coaching and she knows our team very well. I think that she will be able to bring a lot of future success to our program.”
Sorenson was hired as an assistant coach at Portland during the summer of 2011 after spending the previous four years as an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University. Sorenson was EWU’s recruiting coordinator and she helped lead the Eagles to the 2010 Big Sky regular season title. Under her tutelage, Eastern Washington forward Julie Piper became the first player in school history to be named the Big Sky Most Valuable Player, while guard Brianne Ryan landed on the all-conference first team.
Prior to landing with the Eagles, Sorenson served as the head coach of the women’s team at Bellevue Community College (Wash.) for three seasons (2005-07). After winning just four games her first year, Sorenson led the Bulldogs to 22 wins the next season and to an impressive 26-5 record in 2007. Sorenson was named the NWAACC North Division’s Coach of the Year after the remarkable turnaround.
Before BCC, Sorenson served as the head coach of the girls’ team at Eastside Catholic High School, also located in Bellevue.
Sorenson graduated from Washington in 2003 with degrees in both communications and psychology. She was a wing for the Huskies and she was a team captain during her junior and senior campaigns. Sorenson helped lead UW to two NCAA Tournaments, including the 2001 Regional Final, and a pair of WNIT berths. She garnered Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention accolades during her final season at the school.
Sorenson earned multiple All-America honors at Clackamas High School, while landing on the all-state first team and all-state tournament team two years in a row. Sorenson finished her prep career with 1,968 career points and she led the state of Oregon (24.8 ppg) in scoring during her junior campaign.
Sorenson becomes the third new head coach added to the West Coast Conference this off-season.
“The addition of Cheryl here at the University of Portland, combined with the recent hires at Gonzaga and Santa Clara, shows that the WCC is becoming a great conference for developing women’s basketball coaches,” said Leykam. “Cheryl brings a strong reputation from both her playing career at Washington and her ability to excel as a recruiter and motivator in her past experiences as both a Division I assistant coach and junior college head coach.”
“The WCC is deeper and more talented than ever,” Sorenson said about the league, which sent five teams to the postseason last year. “I am excited to be able to grow with a lot of other young coaches in this conference, while competing against some savvy veteran staffs that have had great success. You can’t take days off in this conference and our goal is to be a postseason team. I think reaching the postseason should be an expectation for our program.”