Santiago Restrepo has brought University of Oklahoma volleyball to new heights. Combining international recruiting with a hard-working, blue-collar coaching style, the Bogota, Colombia, native has made his mark on the volleyball community.
The Sooners have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last five seasons and posted four consecutive seasons with 20-plus wins after a 24-8 campaign in 2013 that ended in the NCAA Second Round. Sallie McLaurin repeated as the most recent All-American during Restrepo's tenure with an AVCA All-America Second Team selection.
Restrepo has turned around a program that won a combined 27 matches in the four years prior to his arrival. In 10 years at Oklahoma, Restrepo’s record stands at 189-125 (.602). He has guided the program to seven NCAA Championship appearances, including two third round appearances in 2006 and 2010.
During his tenure, seven Oklahoma student-athletes have earned All-America honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the organization has recognized 10 Sooners with all-region accolades. The Big 12 Conference has selected 13 OU players as all-conference selections and seven rookies have earned a spot on the conference’s all-freshman team.
Six OU players have garnered various Big 12 Conference “of the Year” honors and 58 have earned Academic All-Big 12 awards. A total of 13 Sooners have been awarded with the College Sports Information Directors’ Academic All-District distinction. Suzy Boulavsky became the program’s first Academic All-American in 2010 after being named to the CoSIDA third team. Boulavsky earned first team honors in 2011.
The 2012 senior class became the first to reach the postseason in each of its four seasons, only to be matched by the 2013 class. The 2013 season ended in the NCAA Second Round with a 24-8 overall record and 11-5 mark in the Big 12, good enough for third. McLaurin claimed her third AVCA All-America honor and earned CoSIDA Academic All-American as well as Big 12 Scholar Athlete of the Year.
The 2011 team finished with a 21-12 overall record and 8-8 mark in the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma advanced to its third consecutive NCAA Championship that season and fifth in six years. Brianne Barker earned her second consecutive All-America third team honor, while Boulavsky and McLaurin were named All-America honorable mention. Barker and Boulavsky earned first team All-Central Region honors from the AVCA and first team All-Big 12 honors, while McLaurin was named to the All-Central Region and All-Big 12 honorable mention teams. McLaurin was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while Carlee Roethlisberger was named Newcomer of the Year. Tara Dunn earned a spot on the All-Big 12 freshman team. Nine OU players earned academic all-conference honors.
The 2010 Sooners made the NCAA Championship and were awarded their first-ever first and second round host site as the team advanced to the third round for the third time in program history. The season was highlighted with a 23-11 overall mark and third-place finish in the Big 12 with a 13-7 record. McLaurin became the first Oklahoma player to be named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Barker and Boulavsky earned first team All-Big 12 honors, while Barker was a first team All-Central Region selection and Boulavsky was honorable mention. Barker was also named to the All-America third team by the AVCA.
After losing his youngest son to leukemia prior to the start of the 2009 season, Restrepo returned from a leave of absence to lead his team to the NCAA Championship for the first time since the 2007 season. The Sooners finished fourth in the Big 12 after going 11-9 and 18-12 overall. Boulavsky earned AVCA honorable mention all-region honors. Barker and Francie Ekwerekwu were named honorable mention All-Big 12.
Restrepo coached Caitlin Higgins to All-Big 12 freshman team honors in 2008. She became the first OU player to earn AVCA Division I National Player of the Week on Nov. 4, 2008. McLaurin duplicated the feat on Sept. 17, 2013.
Selected ninth in the 2007 preseason poll, the Sooners advanced to the NCAA Championship, finishing 22-10 with a 13-7 mark in Big 12 play. Sarah Weiland represented OU on the AVCA and All-Big 12 honorable mention teams.
One of the most successful seasons in the program’s history came during the 2006 campaign as OU turned in the biggest turnaround in Big 12 history. That year, Restrepo guided the Sooners to their first-ever win over Texas and the team advanced to the NCAA Championship third round for just the second time ever. Oklahoma finished the year ranked No. 12 in the final AVCA, its highest in history. Behind Restrepo’s leadership, the Sooners recorded the best winning percentage in school history with a 28-6 (.824) record and finish second in the Big 12 with a 17-3 mark.
All five seniors on the 2006 team earned All-Big 12 recognition. Joanna Schmitt and Eliane Santos each earned All-America honors. Restrepo earned Big 12 and Regional Coach of the Year honors and was recognized by CVU.com as its 2006 National Coach of the Year.
Restrepo left Southern Mississippi in 2004 to fulfill a dream of coaching in the Big 12. In Restrepo’s final season at Southern Miss, he led his 2003 team to a program-best 27-6 record and was named Conference USA Coach of the Year.
That squad reeled off three winning streaks of at least six matches, including one eight-win string, the longest in school history. Three Golden Eagle players garnered All-Conference USA honors during Restrepo’s three-year tenure, including two in his final season. He left Southern Miss with a conference record of 52-40 (.565) and an overall mark of 127-72 (.638).
Perhaps the most remarkable part of the Golden Eagles’ 27-win season is that it came just two years after a nine-win campaign. The 2001 team went 9-19 and finished 11th in C-USA. One recruiting class later, his 2002 team improved to 16-15 and finished the conference season in eighth.
Prior to coaching at Southern Miss, Restrepo served three seasons (1998-2000) as an assistant coach at Saint Louis University under Marilyn Nolen. Restrepo brought a tough training regimen to the Billiken program in 1998, and his dedication and work sparked an immediate improvement.
Saint Louis posted its fourth best single-season winning percentage in school history at 21-7 (.750) during the 1998 season. In 2000, he helped the Billikens to 23 victories, the most since 1996.
Restrepo served as the women’s head coach at East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University from 1994-97. He led the Warriors to a 21-11 record and a semifinal finish in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in his first season in the league. East Stroudsburg posted its best record in school history with a 32-2 mark in 1996. For his team’s efforts, Restrepo was named PSAC Coach of the Year. During his tenure, he led ESU to a 75-32 (.735) overall record.
A former NCAA Division I All-American at East Stroudsburg, Restrepo was also a four-time all-conference selection. He earned team most valuable player honors all four years and was the co-winner of the senior athlete award in 1986. He was inducted into the East Stroudsburg Hall of Fame in 2004.
Following his collegiate career, Restrepo played one season professionally in France and returned to the United States where he played on the American Volleyball Players Pro Beach Tour.
He earned a 3A player rating on the AVP tour and had the opportunity to play against some of the giants of professional beach volleyball, including Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos and Kent Steffes.
Highly involved with USA Volleyball and internationally, Restrepo served as co-head coach of one of two USA Volleyball under-22 select teams that toured Argentina in June 2005 and 2006. He was head coach of USA Volleyball’s A2 junior national team during its summer 2011 international tour.
Restrepo and his wife, Heidi Nichols, have two sons, Diego Ignacio and Javier Santiago. Restrepo’s youngest son, Javier Santiago, passed away from leukemia in July 2009 at the age of four. To find out what you can do to help promote childhood cancer awareness, visit The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.