Marisa Kanela enters her seventh season as an assistant coach with the Mountaineer women’s soccer team.
A former All-Big East midfielder, Kanela has translated her experience on the field to success with the Mountaineers with conference titles in each of her six seasons, including four straight Big 12 Conference regular-season crowns.
Kanela helped the Mountaineers return to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in 2015, the team’s 16th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Along the way, WVU secured its fourth straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title, collected a program-record 19 victories, scored a season-record 61 goals and posted 15 shutouts, also a record. The Mountaineers finished the season nationally ranked No. 7 in the NSCAA Poll, the team’s best postseason position. Including its final ranking, WVU was ranked within the top 10 the final 15 weeks of the season and peaked at a program-best No. 2, a ranking it held for two weeks.
A pair of forwards helped the Mountaineers set the goals record, as Kailey Utley and Michaela Abam paced the squad with a career-best 12 goals each, the 10th-best single-season total in program history. The duo was the second pair in program history to score 12+ goals in one season. Utley finished the year with a team-best 30 points (12 G, 6 A), becoming the 11th player in program history to tally 30+ points. She also ranked No.1 in the Big 12, No. 4 nationally, in game-winners (7), No. 2 in goals (12) and No. 4 in assists (6).
Utley and Abam landed on the 2015 All-Big 12 First Team, and fellow forward Sh’Nia Gordon was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. In total, WVU earned a conference-best 11 All-Big 12 honors.
WVU pushed its Big 12 title count to five in 2014 and ended the year on a program-record 19-match unbeaten streak. The Mountaineers won the Big 12’s regular season and championship titles and again advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Under Kanela’s tutelage, Abam was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. She paced the team with 16 points and eight goals, the second-best goal total for a Mountaineer freshman, and finished the season ranked No. 4 in the conference in goals and No. 6 in points. Abam was one of nine Mountaineers to earn an All-Big 12 honor.
Kanela helped guide senior forward Frances Silva to Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2013; in total, WVU secured eight All-Big 12 awards. Additionally, she oversaw a Mountaineer frontline that tallied a Big 12-best 141 points on 47 goals.
WVU went unbeaten in Big 12 play (7-0-1) in 2012, marking only the sixth time a Big 12 team has won the regular season without a loss. West Virginia’s seven All-Big 12 selections were the most of any conference program, including defensive player of the year Bry McCarthy.
Kanela helped WVU win back-to-back Big East Championships in its final two seasons in the league. The Mountaineers earned 11 all-conference honors in 2010 and 2011, including 2011 Big East Rookie of the Year Kate Schwindel.
She also oversees the academic, audio/video, scouting, compliance, camps and clinics and community service efforts of the team. Fourteen Mountaineers earned Big 12 Academic honors in 2015, with eight freshmen landing on the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. Additionally, senior Amanda Hill earned Senior CLASS All-America Second Team honors and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team, and Utley was selected to the NSCAA Scholar All-America Third Team. WVU has had at least one Academic All-America in each of the last three seasons.
A program-best 11 Mountaineers were named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Academic Soccer team, with nine landing on the first team, including 4.0 student-athlete Ali Connelly. Additionally, Carly Black was named to the Capitol One Academic All-America Second Team. In 2013, Silva was named a NSCAA Scholar All-American and the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year.
Kanela has continued the program’s vision to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. WVU women’s soccer has raised more than $100,000 over the past 13 years for the Betty Puskar Breast Cancer Fund.
Kanela spent three seasons (2007-09) as a volunteer with the Mountaineers, assisting coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and her staff in a variety of roles on and off the field. She witnessed the program’s first Big East Championship title and Elite Eight appearance in 2007 while assisting with administrative tasks, team travel, on-campus visits, game day management, academic tutoring, practice sessions and other duties.
Since 2005, Kanela has been active in the state’s youth soccer programs, coaching U-10 through U-18 MUSC (Mountaineer United Soccer Club) teams. She also worked as the state’s Region 1 coach for the West Virginia Olympic Development Program for four years.
Kanela spent one season with the West Virginia Illusion, a former member of the W-League, as an assistant coach. She also spent time as a player/coach with the Illusion during its inaugural season and worked out at the 2008 Women’s Professional Soccer Combine in Tampa.
She served as a youth soccer coach and personal trainer at Pro Performance Rx in Morgantown from 2006-08. At Pro, Kanela ran private soccer lessons, conducted clinics for players ages 4-12 and instituted a summer soccer camp program.
Kanela holds Level I & II regional and state goalkeeping licenses and National Youth Soccer Association coaching licenses. A member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) since 2007, she has her USSF “C” license.
A four-year letterwinner from 2002-05, Kanela participated in four NCAA Tournaments at WVU while being named an NSCAA Scholar All-American, Big East Academic All-Star, Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll member and the Big East Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete.
Upon graduation, she ranked in the school’s Top 10 record book for career goals, assists and points and led the 2004 and 2005 teams in scoring. A two-time NSCAA all-region selection, Kanela earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2005, second team honors in 2004 and was an all-rookie team pick in 2002. The former New York State Gatorade Player of the Year was team captain of the 2005 WVU soccer team.
A native of Wantagh, New York, Kanela earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education/health education from WVU in 2007 and a master’s degree in physical education/teacher education in 2009.