By Josh Pound, Benedictine (Kan.) Sports Information Director
ATCHISON, Kan. – At age 26, Benedictine (Kan.) men's soccer coach Rob Herringer returned to take over a program that was near and dear to his heart.
A 2000 graduate of not just Benedictine, but the men's soccer program as well, Coach Herringer returned to his alma mater eight years ago with a plan for taking his program to the level that had not been seen since the early 1980s.
"When I came in as the head coach, I told the alumni that I had a project called Project 2010 and probably nobody remembers that at this point," Herringer said. "I told the Alumni and supporters that by 2010 we were going to win a conference championship and go the national tournament and we did that in 2009."
"I knew that was Coach (John) Casey's goal. He would put it up on the board and he would put it on t-shirts because it hadn't been done since 1982 and I knew that was something that this program needed to accomplish again. It had been too long but in order to make it to the national tournament, our first step had to be (to figure out) what can we do to win a conference championship. That was our driving focus from day one, how do we build a program that's capable of winning a conference championship in the conference that we play in and then get to the national tournament."
In his ninth year as head coach, Coach Herringer reached a milestone on Sunday after the No. 17-ranked Ravens beat Oklahoma City University 1-0 at the BC Soccer Complex. The win gave Coach Herringer 100 career wins as the head men's soccer coach at Benedictine.
"For me this is a tremendous honor," Coach Herringer said. "When I was playing soccer here and going to school here, I don't think that I ever thought I would be the head soccer coach at Benedictine College, let alone win 100 games.
"I've done a lot of thinking about the last eight years over the last couple of days and I got a couple of great texts from some of the guys who were on the first team that I coached here, they said (they) were around for No. 1 and now (they) feel old."
Under his watch, the Ravens have earned two Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) regular season titles, a HAAC Tournament Championship and qualified for the NAIA Playoffs twice.
"It really didn't take that long because we've had great players," Herringer said. "Amazing young men that have been great players and they've made my job so enjoyable over the years. To win 100 games at Benedictine and to have been here as long as I've been here is a huge honor. I just hope that we can continue to play the way that we've been able to play over the last eight years and continue this strong run of performances and seasons. Coach Casey and I are the only two coaches in the history of Benedictine soccer to have 100 wins and to be mentioned in the same breath as Coach Casey is just truly phenomenal for me. He had a big influence on my life and the life of many other players and students at Benedictine and to get to that level and to be mentioned with him is such an honor."
"At the end of the day I have to give all the credit to the players that decided to come play for me and come to this school and buy into everything that we're doing," Herringer said. "Had they not done that, we would have never been able to accomplish the things that we've been able to accomplish over the last eight years."
Laying the Foundation
The success that Coach Herringer has been able to bring back to the men's soccer program at Benedictine stems from the four pillars he brought with him to campus when he first returned.
"We structured everything around four pillars – academics, class, intensity and tradition – and those pillars have not changed since I've been the coach here. We wanted strong student athletes, we wanted to do things in a professional way, we wanted to be competitive and intense in our training between the white lines and the last thing that we wanted to do was be a program that was proud of our tradition. We wanted to educate our players about the history of our program and honor those who came before us and we have done all of those things very, very well," Herringer said.
"At 26 I guess I had a blueprint, at least I thought that I had a blueprint of how we were going to reach those goals. We've always wanted quality young men. It's not just about what we do on the field but what we do off the field. Our performance in the classroom and the community has been top notch. I keep going to the players, because they just bought in," Herringer said. "From my first day on the job, I said these are our four pillars and this is what we're setting out to do and they bought it from day one. Our alumni have been very supportive and the administration has been very supportive so it's not just me, it's not just the players, it's so many people (across campus) that have been a part of our success."
"Looking back on our success, we have a lot of people to thank that have been a huge part of our success."
Managing the New Expectations
When Coach Herringer returned to the program, expectations weren't that high and now coming off the rare HAAC double championship season, new higher expectations are out there for his program.
"I think that it's going to be a little bit more difficult to maintain (our success) because we have performed at such a high level for so long," Herringer said. "Everyone at the NAIA level is getting better. There are a lot of challenges at this level with scholarships and this, that or the other thing that it's just getting tougher."
Under coach Herringer, the Ravens have averaged 12 wins per season and have gone 46-14-8 in what many consider one of the strongest conferences in the NAIA.
"There is a level of expectation now that didn't exist when I took over," Herringer said. "People weren't happy with where we were at, but they weren't upset. Now I think that if we have anything less than a 10-win season or aren't competing and making a run at a conference championship then people are going to be disappointed."
While maintaining such a high level of success might be tough as the landscape of NAIA soccer continues to change, Coach Herringer is confident in the foundations that he built his program on from day one.
"It's going to be hard to maintain it but I think that if we continue to keep finding guys that buy in and fit we're going to do our best. They just don't fit the team but they fit the college and they have a great influence on the college, not just the soccer team. If we continue to bring in those kind of people, we'll never go wrong. We may not win a conference championship every year, and I don't know who could do that every year especially in our conference. We might not go to the national tournament every year, because that's extremely difficult, especially in the NAIA. I can tell you that as long as I'm here and we continue to bring in quality individuals, we will be competitive every year and we will represent this college and this soccer program the right way."
The Ravens 2013 run continues on Friday as they travel to Bellevue, Neb., to take on Bellevue University at 7 p.m.