In her 13 seasons, Karen Ferguson-Dayes has taken a soccer program at the University of Louisville and molded it into a team that has finished near the top of the conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times in the last seven seasons. The winningest coach in Cardinal history, she has improved the team's record nearly every season she has been at the helm and rewritten the record books.
During her tenure, Ferguson-Dayes has guided the Cardinals to not only their first NCAA Tournament berth, but multiple trips to the dance. A season after leading Louisville to its best season in school history with a school record 14 wins, a first ever BIG EAST National Division title and its first ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2011, Ferguson-Dayes led the Cardinals double-digit wins for the third straight season and the seventh time in nine years.
The 2011 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, she has coached three All-Americans including current Cardinal Christine Exeter in 2011, Joanna Haig in 2007 and Jamie Craft in 2006 and a pair of Academic All-Americans in Haig (2007) and Amy Seng (2006). She also coached multiple player of the year winners as Exeter was selected as BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 while Charlyn Corral was BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year in 2012.
The superlatives are nearly too numerous to list completely. Needless to say Ferguson-Dayes has been the most successful coach in U of L women's soccer history and is one of the top coaches in the nation.
Last season, Louisville had four players earn All-BIG EAST honors with Corral, who was also an NSCAA All-Region honoree, leading the way with her First Team selection. Midfielder Angelika Uremovich was named Second Team All-BIG EAST while Exeter and goalkeeper Chloe Kiefer earned Third Team honors.
During the record-setting 2011 season, the Cardinals also advanced to their first ever BIG EAST Tournament title game and ended the season ranked 24th overall in the final NSCAA coaches' poll. Along with Exeter's league honors, Jennifer Jones was a Third Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2011 while Erin Yenney was named to the conference's All-Rookie Team.
Louisville earned an at-large berth into the 2011 NCAA Championship and was selected as a host for the first time in the post-season tournament. The Cardinals delivered on the opportunity to play in front of the home fans earning a dominating 2-0 victory over Dayton for the program's first ever NCAA Championship win. They followed that with an impressive 2-0 road triumph over No. 5 Memphis in the second round before falling to ninth-ranked Florida State in the Sweet 16.
In 2010, the Cardinals were led by Exeter, who was selected as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, and Uremovich, who was named to the league's All-Rookie Team. U of L opened the season with a school record seven straight wins, which included victories over No. 13 South Carolina and rival Kentucky, and then closed the season by advancing to the BIG EAST Championship for the fifth time in six seasons.
Prior to a disappointing 2009 season where injuries limited the Cardinals' success on the field, the 2008 season served as a learning experience for a team that featured only three seniors. Even with the loss of All-American goalkeeper Joanna Haig and three other key starters, UofL advanced to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament for the third straight season and won nine games overall against one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Seniors Jessica Mello and Shannon Smyth earned Third Team All-BIG EAST honors and were joined by senior Mallory Lampson as NSCAA Academic All-Region selections.
In 2007 a trip to the BIG EAST semifinals was a new plateau of success for the program, as were the five players honored on All-BIG EAST teams. In tying the school record with 13 wins and advancing to the NCAA's for the second consecutive season, the team collectively posted a 3.416 GPA in the classroom.
Haig established five school records, and finished the season third in the nation in save% (0.893) and fifth in GAA playing in Ferguson-Dayes' defensive brand of soccer.
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 advance 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). Six players earned All-Region honors, three found their name on the All-BIG EAST squads and two 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-Dayes 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-Dayes, the team notched double figure wins for the second consecutive season. Three team members were honored by the BIG EAST, led by junior Jamie Craft, a first-team selection who was also named to two difference All-Region teams.
Ferguson-Dayes' appointment and success here at Louisville has not gone unnoticed.
University of Louisville Director of Athletics Tom Jurich knew who he wanted to lead the then-struggling women's soccer team when Ferguson-Dayes 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-Dayes and staff, but growth and success wasn't measured by wins and losses. Not initially. Now the ante has been upped as the program continues its rise with upcoming move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"The University has provided us with the resources we feel are necessary to become an elite program, and that is our goal," said Ferguson-Dayes.
Her tenure is the longest in the program's history. She has already watched assistant coaches Jen Mead and Carmelina Moscato 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 departed for a head coaching opportunity.
Achieving at a high level is not something new for Ferguson-Dayes, who has previously worked as the ODP Girls 1993 age group head coach and the Region II liaison for the US Soccer National Teams 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.
During the summer of 2003 she served as an assistant coach for the U-19 Adidas Youth Team and she has also served as the head coach of the Region II 87 girls' 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 Louisville, 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-Dayes 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-Dayes 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-Dayes' 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-Dayes holds an NSCAA Advanced National Soccer license, as well as a USSF B license.
A native of Holbrook, N.Y., and a graduate of Sachem High School, Ferguson-Dayes is married to Hylton Dayes and the couple has one son, Brandon.
Karen Ferguson-Dayes' NCAA RecordSeason 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.
2007 U of L Head Coach 13-6-2 NCAA 1st Rd.
2008 U of L Head Coach 9-7-3 BIG EAST QF
2009 U of L Head Coach 5-11-1 none
2010 U of L Head Coach 10-9-0 BIG EAST 1st Rd.
2011 U of L Head Coach 14-7-3 NCAA 3rd Rd.
2012 U of L Head Coach 10-4-4 BIG EAST QF
U of L (13 seasons): 114-113-23