MANHATTAN, Kansas – Kansas State soccer head coach Mike Dibbini has announced an addition to his 2019 coaching staff, as he has hired former Kansas Wesleyan head coach Kathleen Benton as an assistant coach. Benton replaces associate head coach Jessica Smith, who stepped down for personal reasons.
Dibbini has also elevated assistant coach Gabe Romo to the top assistant position on the K-State staff.
“We appreciate everything Jessica Smith did for this program over the last three-plus years,” said Dibbini about the departure of Smith. “She was one of our legacy program starter assistant coaches and we wish her the best on her next journey.”
Benton joins K-State following two seasons as head coach at Kansas Wesleyan. She steered Kansas Wesleyan to a 27-11-4 (.690) record and the 2018 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,” said Dibbini. ”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 which is great. She will also 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.”
In 2018, the Coyotes finished with a 17-3-2 overall record and an 11-0-1 record in the conference to capture the conference titles.
The Coyotes placed nine on the All-KCAC teams, including the KCAC Newcomer of the Year (Michelle Pena), the KCAC Defensive Player of the Year (Krysta Catone) and Benton was named the 2018 KCAC Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year. Four student-athletes were named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Plains Region Team and Pena was named as a NAIA Honorable Mention All-American.
In 2017, Benton’s first season leading the Coyotes, she led the program to the 13th consecutive appearance in the KCAC Tournament Championship match. KWU went 10-8-2 overall on the season and posted an 8-2 record in the final ten matches of the season.
Benton mentored seven players to All-KCAC including first-team selections Valerie Ochoa, Antonia Burrell and Jane Potter. Four were named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes and seven were named Academic All-KCAC.
Benton was a two-year letter winner and two-time team captain at Kansas Wesleyan, as she played for Dibbini in 2007 and 2008. She helped lead the Coyotes back-to-back KCAC regular season and tournament crowns. The 2007 squad won the NAIA Region IV title, a first-ever accomplishment for a team from the KCAC, and advanced to the second round of the NAIA National Championships. The Coyotes reached the 2008 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round.
Benton collected a number of honors during her playing career with Kansas Wesleyan including: 2007 NAIA All-America honorable mention, two-time NSCAA All-Regiona, two-time All-KCAC First Team and 2007 KCAC Newcomer of the Year.
Following her playing career, Benton served as an assistant coach on Dibbini’s staff at Kansas Wesleyan from 2009 until 2013, where she oversaw recruiting and served as the head coach of the junior varsity squad. She also was active within the Salina Soccer Club, serving as Director of Academies, Assistant Director of Coaching, and as a coach.
She has also served as a head coach in the Kansas Olympic Development Program since 2013 and has been the head coach of the Sporting Kaw Valley Premier team and is a Technical Director for SKV in Salina. She was named the KSYSA Girls Competitive Coach of the Year in 2016.
Benton holds several top coaching certifications including a USSF F, E, & D licenses, NSCAA Youth II Diploma, NSCAA Goalkeeping I, II, & III Diplomas, NSCAA Advanced Regional Diploma, NSCAA National Diploma, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and NSCAA Premier Diploma. She was named part of the prestigious NSCAA 30 under 30 class in 2014-15 which pegs the top 15 women and 15 men in the country as the best up and coming coaches under 30 years of age
Benton holds an Associate of Liberal Arts degree from Santiago Canyon College in Orange, Calif. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Kansas Wesleyan and received her Master of Business Administration with emphasis in Sports Management from KWU in 2011.
K-State is set to embark on its fourth season in 2019. The Wildcats return 17 letter winners, including eight starters from the 2018 season. Among the 17 letter winners returns, Kansas State welcomes back nine of the 13 players to register at least one point from the 2018 season.
In addition to the 17 returning letter winners, Kansas State also adds 10 newcomers and two redshirts to the rotation for the 2019 season.
Kansas State will play nine home matches, including four matches in Big 12 play, at the new Buser Family Park in the 2019 season. For season tickets, contact the K-State Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221-CATS or visit www.kstatesports.com/tickets.