Karen Ferguson, the winningest coach in University of Louisville history, is in her eighth season as the head coach of the Cardinal women's soccer team and has guided the Cardinals to a litany of firsts, improving the team's record nearly every season she has been at the helm.
The 2006 squad became the first in school history to earn a national ranking, peaking at 15th in the nation. It was also the first team to advanced to the coveted plateau that is the NCAA Tournament. Success was not limited to the field, as the team set marks in the classroom with the second-highest team gpa, a record number of Red and Black Scholars and members of the AD Honor Roll, as well as the first Academic All-American in school history (Amy Seng).
The 13 wins and .725 winning percentage were both tops in school history, marking the third straight season of double figure wins for the first time in program history. Six players earned All-Region honors, three found their name on the All-BIG EAST squads and tow players were named All-American (Jamie Craft and Joanna Haig), just the second and third such honored in Cardinal history. Craft moved on to a career in professional soccer, enjoying a solid season with the W-League Boston Renegades.
The fall of 2005 meant the first foray into the BIG EAST, a conference that Ferguson had spent seven years in as a player and assistant coach. With the jump into one of the elite conferences, it was expected that the Cardinals might stumble in making the jump, but under the guidance of Ferguson, the team notched double figure wins for the second consecutive season. Three team members were honored by the BIG EAST, lead by junior Jamie Craft, a first-team selection who was also named to two difference All-Region teams.
Ferguson's appointment and success here at Louisville has not gone unnoticed. Just ask Tony DiCicco, WUSA Commissioner and head coach of the 1996 Olympic team and 1999 World Cup gold medal winners.
"Karen Ferguson is one of the bright stars in the American coaching scene. As a player she was Women's National Team Pool quality and as a coach, she has demonstrated her knowledge, passion and abilities in player and program development," said DiCicco.
University of Louisville Director of Athletics Tom Jurich knew who he wanted to lead the then-struggling women's soccer team when Ferguson was hired to be the eighth head coach of the U of L women's soccer team in 2000.
"Her name kept rising to the top during our national search and she came to us with incredible recommendations," noted Jurich.
Nobody believed the process of turning the Louisville women's soccer program into a winner is one that would occur overnight, as evidenced by the tough first season for Ferguson and staff, but growth and success wasn't measured by wins and losses. Not initially.
Now the ante has been upped.
Under the guidance of Jurich, the Cardinals opened a new era as members of the BIG EAST, and will now take the pitch for the third season as a member of the league.
"The BIG EAST is one of the top conferences in the country and we are extremely excited to have joined such an elite conference," Ferguson said.
"We were happy with our success in the first two seasons and feel the conference provides us with a national platform that we need in order to be competitive with the best teams in the country."
"The University has provided us with the resources we feel are necessary to become an elite program, and that is our goal."
Her seemingly brief tenure is already the longest in the program's history.
She has already watched assistant coach Jen Mead move on to pursue a career in professional soccer, former assistant Carole Dutchka is now the athletic director at Louisville's Presentation Academy, and former assistant Tim Nowak is now the head coach at Eastern Illinois.
Achieving at a high level is not something new for Ferguson. She is currently acting as the Region II liaison for the US Soccer National Teams. She is in charge of tracking and following the progress of members of the US Soccer Youth National Team system.
She served as an assistant coach of the USA U-21 team for their 2004 season.
The team had three different training sessions at the US Soccer's National Training Center in Carson, California, where they had the opportunity to scrimmage the US National Team. Training preceded trips to China in March, Brazil in May and Iceland in July to complete the Nordic Cup. It was there that the team won its sixth consecutive Nordic Cup title with a 3-0 win over Sweden.
During the summer of 2003 she served as an assistant coach for the U-19 Adidas Youth Team.
Three years ago she served as the head coach of the Region II 87 girl's team which competed in the Adidas ESP event and the November Interregional event in Boca Raton, Florida.
In 2003 she worked with the Region II girls U-15 team, and accompanied the team to numerous interregional events.
Prior to accepting her position at U of L, she was the assistant coach at the University of Connecticut for three seasons. The Huskies were 60-12-2 during the three years she spent as an assistant, advanced to the final eight twice (1998 and '99), and were national runner-up in 1997.
A 1993 graduate of UCONN, Ferguson coached under and played for legendary soccer coach Len Tsantiris who has not missed the NCAA Division I soccer tournament during his tenure.
Before coaching at UCONN, Ferguson served as an assistant at Boston University during its first two seasons of soccer where the team was an astonishing 24-7-2 overall.
In her playing career at UCONN as a midfielder, she was named first team All-America in `91, `92 and `93. The Huskies were 63-24-3 during her four-year career and she tallied 53 points (18 goals and 17 assists.)
In 1990 as a freshman, the Huskies competed in the national semifinal where she was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. Soccer America Magazine selected her as a Team MVP in 1992, an award given to 11 players nationally.
Ferguson's playing career was not limited to the collegiate level. She played for the U.S. National Team in 1992 and 1993.
While at UCONN, she was involved in the Connecticut Olympic Development Program and served as staff coach in Region One. Ferguson holds an NSCAA Advanced National Soccer license, as well as a USSF B license.
A native of Holbrook, N.Y., she graduated from Sachem High School.
Karen Ferguson's NCAA Record
Season Team Role Record Postseason
1990 UConn Player 15-8-1 NCAA Runner-up
1991 UConn Player 16-5-0 NCAA QF
1992 UConn Player 15-5-1 NCAA 1st Rd.
1993 UConn Player 17-6-1 NCAA QF
1995 Boston Asst. Coach 10-3-2 none
1996 Boston Asst. Coach 14-4-0 none
1997 UConn Asst. Coach 23-4-0 NCAA Runner-up
1998 UConn Asst. Coach 21-2-2 NCAA QF
1999 UConn Asst. Coach 17-8-0 NCAA QF
2000 U of L Head Coach 1-18-1 none
2001 U of L Head Coach 4-13-0 none
2002 U of L Head Coach 5-12-1 none
2003 U of L Head Coach 7-9-2 none
2004 U of L Head Coach 12-5-3 C-USA SF
2005 U of L Head Coach 11-8-0 BIG EAST QF
2006 U of L Head Coach 13-4-3 NCAA 1st Rd.
Overall (Fifteeen seasons) 201-115-17
U of L (Seven seasons) 53-69-10