news 6 days ago

K-State soccer makes coaching staff additions

The Manhattan Mercury, Kan. — Sean Collins The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.

July 08--Jul. 8--Kathleen Benton, formerly the head soccer coach at Kansas Wesleyan, will join Kansas State's staff as an assistant. Benton is replacing associate head coach Jessica Smith, who stepped down for personal reasons.

Assistant Gabe Romo also moved up to the top assistant spot on the staff.

"We appreciate everything Jessica Smith did for this program over the last three-plus years," K-State head soccer coach Mike Dibbini said in a release. "She was one of our legacy program starter assistant coaches and we wish her the best on her next journey."

Benton went 27-11-4 last season at Kansas Wesleyan and won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) regular season and tournament titles.

"After a competitive national search to find Jess's replacement, we were very specific in terms of what we needed to move forward in our program," Dibbini said. "We are extremely pleased to announce Kathleen Benton, as she checked all of the boxes for what our soccer program needs. She has head coaching experience at KWU, but more importantly, the instant chemistry and learning curve knowing my coaching and recruiting philosophy will help tremendously.

"Kat has good knowledge of our soccer system both playing for me and coaching alongside (me), which is great. She also will help us off the field in the mental aspect of the game, as she has the ability to connect well with the student-athletes. Kat's experience, her personality, and enthusiastic approach will be a huge asset to our program. We are looking forward to having her energy."

Kansas Wesleyan had nine players on the All-KCAC teams, including Newcomer of the Year Michelle Pena and Defensive Player of the Year Krysta Catone. Benton took home the 2018 KCAC Women's Soccer Coach of the Year. Four student-athletes earned United Soccer Coaches All-Plains Region Team honors while Pena was an NAIA All-America honorable mention.

Benton led the Coyotes to their 13th consecutive appearance in the KCAC tournament championship match in 2017.

Several players Benton mentored were all-conference performers, including first=team selections Valerie Ochoa, Antonia Burrell and Jane Potter.

Benton was the team captain twice at Kansas Wesleyan and lettered twice playing for Dibbini in 2007 and 2008. She was part of a Coyotes team that won back-to-back KCAC regular season and tournament crowns. The 2007 team won the NAIA Region IV title for the first time.

Her team advanced to the second round of the NAIA National Championship, and the Coyotes made it back to the National Championship the following year.

Benton had a decorated career as a player, including in 2007 as an NAIA All-America honorable mention and making NSCAA All-Region twice. She also was a two-time All-KCAC first-team selection and won the league's Newcomer of the Year award in 2007.

Benton was an assistant coach on Dibbini's staff from 2009 to 2013 after her playing career ended. She oversaw recruiting and was the head coach of the junior varsity team. She also was involved in the Salina Soccer Club and served as director of academies and assistant director of coaching.

She also has been a head coach in the Kansas Olympic Development Program since 2013 and served in the same position with the Sporting Kaw Valley Premiere Team. In 2016, Benton was named the KSYSA Girls Competitive Coach of the Year.

Benton graduated from Kansas Wesleyan with a bachelor's degree in Public Relations. She also received her master's degree (in business administration with emphasis in sports management) from KWU in 2011.


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