When thinking about the Illinois State women's soccer program, one name comes to mind ... head coach Pete Kowall. He's the person who, in large part, is responsible for the rise of the program since it's inception in 1996.
Kowall and the women's soccer program have gained respect and built an impressive resumé since he took over the program prior to the Redbirds' second season. With 98 wins at Illinois State, he's guided the `Birds to all but three of the victories in the program's history.
One of the most significant achievements of Kowall's career occurred in 2003, when his veteran squad held off Creighton in a shootout in the State Farm MVC Championship to advance to their first NCAA Tournament. The well-balanced, defensive-minded 2003 team didn't score more than two goals in a game all season, while their opponents scored just 15 goals in 20 games. Only four of the teams they faced scored two or more goals as the `Birds shut out 12 of their foes.
Kowall has brought hard play, drive and a winning style to Illinois State soccer. From the moment he stepped on campus, the Northbrook, Ill., native has been actively involved in Redbird Athletics and has devoted himself to producing a successful women's soccer program. His remarkable record at Illinois State includes conference coach of the year awards in 1998 and 2001, and regular-season championships in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003.
For six straight seasons from 1998-2003, the `Birds finished first or second in the regular season league standings. Additionally, ISU is one of just three Valley schools to participate in each State Farm MVC Tournament.
Before beginning his coaching career, Kowall spent four years as a member of the Western Michigan soccer team. He graduated from WMU in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, and added a master's degree in exercise science in 1988, also from Western Michigan.
In his first head coaching position at Kalamazoo College (1989-90), he was honored as the NSCAA Coach of the Year for the Great Lakes Region in 1990 en route to being selected as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III Coach of the Year. The 1990 squad (17-2), which featured a pair of all-Americans, blanked 15 teams en route to the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Kowall's Hornets compiled an 11-5-1 mark in his first season as a college coach. He guided Kalamazoo to back-to-back Michigan Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) Conference championships after going unbeaten in league play each season, and Hornets earned league player of the year accolades during each of his seasons at the helm.
After a brief stint as an assistant coach at Maryland in 1991, Kowall was an assistant to then head coach April Heinrichs, who was the head coach of the 2004 U. S. Women's Olympic Soccer Team.
He then took over the women's soccer program at Drew University, a Division III school in New Jersey, from 1992-93. He compiled a 21-13 record in two seasons.
Next up for Kowall was a three-year term at Michigan from 1994-96 prior to moving on to Illinois State. His primary focus was on recruiting, while having a hand in building a highly-successful program from its inception.
He has also been active in the Illinois Olympic Development Program (ODP). In July, 2003 and July, 2005, Kowall coached the Under-18 Girls ODP Team to regional championships. Both teams qualified for the ODP National Championships, and the 2003 squad went on to win the national crown.
In addition to being a great leader, Kowall prides himself on being a tenacious recruiter, a skill he honed with the Wolverines. During his first three seasons at ISU, his recruits earned three league freshman of the year plaudits. Additionally, his 2003 Illinois State recruiting class was ranked No. 75 in the nation.
Kowall's Redbird teams have achieved double-digit wins in seven of his nine seasons. With 148 career wins, Kowall ranks among the top 50 active coaches in Division I. He enters the 2006 campaign as the 33rd winningest active coach in Division I women's soccer based on win percentage (.655).
His proven success as a coach and his appreciation for Illinois State soccer and the league has turned the Redbird soccer program into a strong competitor that looks to be equally successful in 2006, despite the loss of two-time MVC Player of the Year Heather Forsyth.
Forsyth is just one of a long list of players who have received recognition for their efforts both on and off the field under Kowall. Two Redbirds have earned conference player of the year accolades, while another three were named MVC freshman of the year. Kowall also coached the league's defensive player of the year in 1998, 2001 and 2002. Additionally, the 2003 team featured a CoSIDA Academic All-American and the 2003 State Farm MVC Tournament MVP.
Kowall and his wife, Kristie, reside in Normal with their son, Kevin (5) and their daughter Anna (2).