Four-straight NCAA Tournament berths ... three-straight trips to the second round of the tournament ... 122 wins ... all numbers emphatically proving the point that Milwaukee men's soccer head coach Louis Bennett is one of the top coaches in the country.
Bennett enters his 10th season as head coach, and 13th affiliated with UWM soccer, as the winningest coach in school history. He has twice been named NSCAA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year, and has been honored as the Horizon League's Coach of the Year five times.
Since 2001 the Panthers have sat atop the league, posting a 37-2-1 record against league foes, including a 26-1-1 regular season mark and four league titles. UWM has also gone 11-1 in the league tournament, winning the last three years after falling in the championship game in 2001. Bennett also guided his squad to a 25-game league unbeaten streak (23-0-2) that stretched into the 2004 season. Overall, he has posted a 48-10-6 league record, with five league crowns, and a 14-5 mark in the tourney, with three more titles.
Milwaukee is coming off its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament season in 2004, winning the regular season crown for the fourth-straight season and the league tournament for the third consecutive year. Antou Jallow earned his second League Player of the Year honor, making three Panthers to earn the honor since in Bennett's tenure. He fashioned an offensively and defensively balanced team with Jallow finishing among the top 15 in the nation in goals and points per game and Dale Weiler finishing second in assists per contest. In the nets, Eric Mickshl led the league in goals-against average and was among the nation's top 25 in the category.
The 2004 campaign also saw Bennett surpass Dan Harris in the UWM coaching ranks, becoming the school's all-time winningest coach in a Sept. 25 victory over Detroit. The Panthers' run in the NCAA Tournament included a 3-2 win at No. 16 San Francisco in the first round and an overtime loss at UC-Santa Barbara in the second round. UCSB made it the NCAA Championship game.
Following the season, Jallow became the third Panther in as many years to be selected in the MLS SuperDraft. He followed brothers Tighe Dombrowski in 2003 and Chad Dombrowski in 2002. All three players also earned All-America recognition in their time at UWM.
The 2003 campaign saw Bennett earn a third consecutive Horizon League Coach of the Year award while leading UWM to its fifth-straight winning season. Milwaukee defeated Western Michigan, 4-1, to advance to the second round of the tourney for the second-straight year. In addition, due to his ties to the European Soccer community, Bennett helped arrange an 18-day, 10-game European tour in the summer of 2003. Bennett led the Panthers on the trip through the Czech Republic and Germany as the group visited major cities such as Prague and Nurnberg as well as local villages like Feucht, Germany, and Velky Ujezd, Czech Republic.
All of this came on the heels of a record-breaking season in 2002 which included a school-record 19-2-1 record, a No. 8 national ranking--the highest in school history, an NCAA-best 19 consecutive wins and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Bennett also earned NSCAA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honors as well as League Coach of the Year accolades.
The 2001 season, saw UWM post an 18-5 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 mark in Horizon League play. Under Bennett's direction, the Panthers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990 and for the fourth time in school history.
With all of Bennett's accomplishments the last few seasons, the one that most impresses him is not in the records book but in the stands.
"With the success of a college athletic team, you would assume that the fan support would follow, but that's not the case with many college teams," Bennett said. "What has impressed me is the number of passionate UWM fans--especially our students. It's pleasing because they seem to have a grasp of soccer fan traditions. Whether they know it or not, they've contributed in a major way to a real soccer environment at Engelmann. Waving flags, chanting, face painting, dressing up and having noisemakers definitely make it an event."
Milwaukee has given the fans something to see, posting a 39-3-2 home mark over the last four seasons, including three seasons with 10-or-more home wins and a 13-0 home mark in 2002. Attendance over that time has increased from 476 fans per match in 2001 to 925 fans in 2003. Last season, the team drew over 600 fans for the third-straight year.
Bennett first came to UWM in 1993 as an assistant coach to Brian Tompkins. That year, Bennett helped direct a team that won the regular-season conference title with an undefeated record. The rookie coach was then named the head coach in 1996 upon Tompkins' departure to coach at Yale. Bennett recorded the best winning-percentage for a first-year coach in UWM history, as the team went 13-4-3 (.725) that season. In 1997, his second year as head coach, he was named the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year for the first time after leading the Panthers to the regular-season crown, then to the championship game of the conference tournament. In 2000, Bennett helped record the program's 300th win when UWM beat Loyola (MD), 2-0. He captured his 50th career win with a victory over Detroit later that year.
Bennett has also added his touch to the program off the field. During his tenure at UWM, he has been instrumental in upgrading the Panthers facilities and equipment. He has overseen the renovation of the playing surface at Engelmann Field and redone the locker room to reflect a more inspiring pre-game atmosphere. Bennett acquired and furnished the Panther Room to hold meetings, "chalk talks" and watch video on the 60-inch TV screen.
A native of Great Britain, Bennett has made the Milwaukee area his home since 1985. Two years later, he started the British-American Soccer Program in Milwaukee. He is now the owner and director of the organization that operates as a camp and touring program for soccer players ages 6-18. Prior to his assistant position at UWM, Bennett coached the boys' and girls' varsity soccer teams at Nicolet High School for five years. He also has coaching experience at the adult club level in Wisconsin with F.C. Victoria, the Bavarian Soccer Club and the Olympic Development Program.
"When I came here I looked at the things that had been accomplished and what the program had done and I was impressed," Bennett said. "However, over the years I have tried to blend that version of old school history and tradition into new school ways. I think it has combined to push the program to new heights without compromising what the Milwaukee soccer experience is all about."
Bennett played collegiately at Crewe and Alsager College in England, helping win the British Colleges National Championship in 1982. He was also honored as a Great Britain Colleges International Player for three years. Bennett played professional soccer for seven years in the U.S., including three seasons with the Milwaukee Wave of the NPSL (1985-87).
Bennett is married to the former Julie Harper of Milwaukee. The couple has three children - Eston (14), Yve (11) and Louis (10) - and resides in Shorewood.