Willy Sandoval '02 played tennis for Belmont from 1999-2002 and was an important part of the program's transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I era. During his time as a Bruin, the native of Peru earned 50 career singles wins, which ranks in the top-10 in the Division I era. He also helped the program to 42 wins over four years and was a part of the first Belmont tennis team to reach the semifinals of a conference tournament (2002 Atlantic Sun). Recently, he spoke to BelmontBruins.com about his time as a Bruin and his current life as a husband, father, and auditor in Miami.
Why did you choose Belmont?
After finishing high school in Peru, I knew I wanted to study in the US. I contacted a few universities and asked for a tennis scholarship. Luckily, Belmont contacted me and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I like to think that it was meant to be.
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
One special memory was my first trip to our conference tournament. It was our first time we were eligible to play in the tournament and our team was hungry for success. We played a great tournament; we beat Stetson in the quarterfinals, and we lost in the semifinals against UCF in a very close match. Overall, the camaraderie, the road trips, and of course the wins, it was all great.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont and how?
My teammates. Picture a handful of Americans, two Uruguayans, an Australian, a Peruvian, a Swiss, a South African, and a Venezuelan coming together to play tennis in Nashville back in early 2000s. It sounds like the perfect set up for a joke or a television show. We came together as individuals with very different backgrounds and cultures, but in a surprisingly short amount you could find us singing "friends in low places" at Lonnie's bar in downtown Nashville.
In addition to my teammates, John Langdon and Heather Copeland were two people that really cared for our team and supported us by going to our matches and always being available to provide guidance.
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Belmont?
I gained a lot from Belmont but probably the most valuable thing was long lasting friendships. Belmont provided me with an opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and make lasting friendships that I continue to treasure to this day. I arrived at Belmont not knowing anyone and I left with a new family. Today, we all live in different parts of the world, but we are as close as we were back in Belmont.
In addition to my college friends, the Brown and Moreton families welcomed both me and my teammates as one of their own. We were all thousands of miles away from home and it was very difficult for many of us to travel back home. These two families went above and beyond to welcome us into their homes and include us in their lives. I will always remember how they invited and included us even during the holidays and their generosity struck with me and shaped me as a person.
What advice would you give to current members of the tennis team?
Enjoy and celebrate all of it because you are going to miss it. It may not seem this way while you are living it, but everything moves so fast. So, enjoy every game, practice, road trip, all of it. You will soon look back and realized those were some of the best times of your life.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
The entire faculty was very helpful and supportive. Personally, Dr. John Gonas was a great professor because he kept us engaged and motivated to learn more, and he made class fun. One time, at the beginning of a semester, we did an exercise that consisted of throwing darts at the back page of the Wall Street journal to see if over the course of the semester we could beat the randomly selected stocks. We lost.
Where do you live now?
My family and I live in Weston, FL, a suburb outside Miami.
What is your occupation?
I work for Laureate Education, Inc., a publicly traded and global network of private universities. I'm the Vice President and Chief Audit Executive. I'm charged with overseeing global risk management, internal audit, and compliance activities for the company.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Amanda and I met playing soccer in a co-ed league in Miami back in 2008. Amanda is from Orlando, Florida and we got married in 2012 in Miami Beach. For many years we enjoyed the opportunity to work and travel together in places like New York, Washington, DC., Lima, Madrid, and San Jose, Costa Rica. We now have two energetic and entertaining sons, Joaquin who is five years old and Mateo who is 10 months old. We enjoy watching them learn and grow and we look forward to traveling and having new adventures together as a family.