Robert Klatte is the 16-year skipper, founding father and architect of Purdue's nationally-recognized soccer program.
In 2009, he made Big Ten history by becoming the first coach to lead one team to 10 straight seasons of 10 or more victories. The Boilermakers finished the season with a 12-6-3 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in program history and fourth time the span of five years (2005-09). Klatte's 167-130-30 mark at Purdue ranks him fifth on the Big Ten's all-time list for overall wins at one school, and his 69-68-16 mark in Big Ten play puts him second on the all-time list for conference wins at one school.
Since 2000, the team has continually impressed. The Boilermakers have played above a .600 winning percentage in nine of the past 14 seasons. Even in 2004, a rebuilding year, the team posted a respectable 10-10 record. Beginning with the 2000 season, Purdue has produced a record of 156-104-32 for a .589 winning percentage.
They have finished with a winning conference mark in eight of the 14 seasons since 2000. Despite being the youngest program in the Big Ten, and one of only three programs to play fewer than 19 seasons, Purdue ranks seventh in all-time conference wins. The Boilermakers have compiled more wins than Iowa in two fewer seasons of Big Ten play and also rank ahead of 19-year members Michigan State, Indiana and Northwestern.
Purdue made nine consecutive appearances in Big Ten Tournament field from 2000-08. The tournament took a two-year hiatus before returning in 2011. That streak ranked as the third-longest in the Big Ten, behind only perennial powers Penn State and Illinois.
Klatte was hired in 1997, a full year before the Boilermakers' first game and two years prior to the completion of their home pitch - the Varsity Soccer Complex - to build a team from scratch. Without a facility to show off for potential student-athletes or a history to revel about, Klatte hit the recruiting trail selling only his excitement and passion for Boilermaker soccer.
Klatte's enthusiastic persona is still winning over recruits more than a decade later. When looking over responses from incoming freshmen as to why they chose Purdue, they consistently mention Klatte's positive outlook and overall attitude as being a motivating factor.
Led by the forward trio of Maddy Williams (10 goals, 6 assists), Hadley Stuart (6 goals, 10 assists) and Alex Hairston (6 goals, 8 assists), the 2013 Boilers scored 34 goals and found the back of the net in each of the first 13 games, the fourth-longest streak in program history. Purdue also posted a shutout streak of 329 consecutive scoreless minutes come to an end. It ranked as the team's longest defensive streak since October 2009.
After starting conference play 0-2, the Boilers reeled off three consecutive 1-0 victories -- shutting out Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern. Purdue played the role of streak snapper in its 1-0 wins against Ohio State and Illinois. The Boilermakers ended OSU's 12-game unbeaten streak vs. Big Ten opponents and became the first visiting team to win in Columbus in over a year. It was OSU's lone home loss of the year as well as Purdue's first win in Columbus since 2007. The Boilers kept Illinois winless (0-5-3) all-time in West Lafayette and also snapped the Illini's 20-game scoring streak.
The third straight 1-0 victory extended the program-long win streak against Northwestern to 10 consecutive games. Purdue had not won three consecutive games in 1-0 fashion since 2006 and it was the team's first three-game win streak in Big Ten play since 2007.
Williams established a new Purdue freshman points record, finishing the season with 26 while tying Jessica Okoroafo's freshman goals benchmark from 2005. Williams' 10 goals were the most by a Boiler since 2007 and represented only the sixth double-figure total in program history.
The fall of 2012 turned out to be a great academic semester for the Boilermakers. Overall it was the most successful semester in regards to team GPA in program history. Purdue had an overall team GPA of 3.44. Five individuals earned 4.0s and another had a 3.93 GPA.
The 2012 Boilers scored at least one goal in nine consecutive games to post the program's lost streak since 2009. The team went 6-4-2 in its first year at the newly-renovated Boilermaker Soccer Complex, entering Big Ten play with a 5-2-1 mark after positive results against four conference champions. But as the injuries mounted in late September and October, Purdue was unable to get results on the road in Big Ten play.
Jordan Pawlik finished her first season with the program with a team-high nine goals. She tied a Purdue single-game record by posting the fourth hat trick in program history in a home win against Evansville. Hairston led the team with eight assists, setting up seven goals in the span of four games. She had two assists in three consecutive games during that stretch. While becoming the fifth player in program history to record an assist in four consecutive games, she was the first Boiler with three multi-assist games in the same season, much less in three straight games.
The summer of 2012 saw Purdue alumni Lauren Sesselmann (2001-05) win an Olympic Bronze medal with Team Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and Felicia Schroeder (2007-08) win the World Deaf Football Championships with U.S. Deaf Soccer. Schroeder was also recognized as the first-ever winner of U.S. Soccer's Disabled Athlete of the Year award.
A resilient midseason stretch that kept the Boilers alive in the Big Ten Tournament chase until the final day of the regular season highlighted the 2011 campaign. It was senior Kellie Phillips who provided the scoring punch during a midseason surge that saw Purdue post a 4-3-1 record from Sept. 25 through Oct. 23. Phillips scored all of her team-leading eight goals over the course of seven games in Big Ten play. She tied a school record with a goal in five consecutive games and posted only the third hat trick in program history in an 8-2 blowout victory against rival Indiana. The senior finished her career with 20 goals and 20 assists, becoming only the second player in Purdue history to join the 20-20 club.
The Boilermakers tied a single-game program record for goals while extending their unbeaten streak against IU to 15 consecutive games.
Purdue's 2011 senior class represented a large part of the team's core for multiple seasons. Led by four-year starters Lauren Montenegro, Alexis Tryba and Phillips, the 2011 seniors made a combined 337 starts during their careers. Brookley Rogers and Montenegro never missed a game.
Purdue's 2010 team enjoyed some positive results along the way but a rash of injuries ultimately ravaged the program's depth and in turn brought to an end the Boilers' impressive streak of 10 consecutive seasons with a double-figure win total.
Senior Liz Secue and junior Lauren Montenegro were two of the seven Purdue players to start every game in 2010. Secue capped her career with First Team All-Big Ten honors and Montenegro was recognized as a Second Team performer. Montenegro was been an all-conference pick in each of her first three seasons.
The 2009 season also showed that Klatte continues to build on his success and raise the bar even higher. Five student-athletes concluded their Purdue careers, and they did so as the winningest senior class in program history after compiling a record of 58-21-12 and a winning percentage of .703. The quintet also left with several individual career records, including goals scored, game-winning goals scored, games started and goals-against average.
Not everything has come easily for Klatte and the Boilermakers. As expected, the first few years were challenging as the team went 12-25-0 in 1998 and 1999, but the team rebounded in 2000 with a 12-6-1 record and qualified for its first of nine straight Big Ten Tournament appearances. Purdue won its first tournament title in 2007, ripping though Northwestern, Illinois and Ohio State. In 2002, just the fifth season of Purdue soccer, the Boilermakers advanced to their first of six NCAA Tournaments.
Klatte has built his program on four strong pillars, and is convinced the program will continue its national rise provided student-athletes maintain their focus on those pillars, all of which they can control.
1.) Academic Excellence Since Purdue became eligible to nominate its players for Academic All-Big Ten in 1999, 156 student-athletes have received the honor. The list, which features only sophomores or higher that letter and earn at least a 3.0 grade-point average, has seen an average of 12 Boilermakers per season in the 14 years the Purdue athletes have been eligible.
"Academic success - especially as it requires rigorous effort here at Purdue - will assist you by forcing you to learn to time manage, study, problem solve and prioritize," says Klatte. "You must pass to play. Our team goal is a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Carrying 30 student-athletes, a 3.0 is not the easiest goal to attain, but I believe that if I continue to make it a priority for my athletes, then they are more likely to be successful."
The 2009 Boilermakers placed 11 of their 17 eligible student-athletes on the team. In 2003, the year Purdue advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, a record 17 members of Klatte's crew were named Academic All-Big Ten.
2.) Personal Responsibility The Robert Klatte-coached team is one of many different personalities and backgrounds. Some players carry strength, others bring speed, while others are recognized more for their intelligence or work ethic. However, all 30 or more student-athletes fall onto the same page once they don the Old Gold and Black.
Klatte's teams are not always considered the most talented or graceful (although 2007's 20-win team could easily debate that point), but the student-athletes he mentors never leave the bench without knowing exactly what needs to be done on the pitch. Practices at Purdue not only incorporate ball-handling drills, mini-games and skills competitions, but also detailed instructions regarding formation shapes and the directives of each player's position. Being in the right place is never enough. Klatte wants his players to know why they're there and which way they're headed if the ball moves forward, backward, left, right or diagonal.
"I believe that a player should be provided the opportunity to make decisions, both good and bad," says Klatte. "It would be much easier to demand specific actions from players at specific times or situations - I know there would be fewer costly errors. But playing in that manner would also negate the opportunity for the spectacular or wisp of creative flair that makes the game of soccer so special."
"I try to provide my players with situational recommendations, but insist that they make decisions," says Klatte. "It is my job to analyze their results and provide feedback and try to assist them in learning from their past experiences so that in the future they might make the best decisions available to them."
3.) Pursue Excellence Klatte and his student-athletes are no strangers to receiving awards for their hard work on and off the field. Over the past 16 years, the Boilermakers have garnered a total of 66 conference awards and 34 citations from NSCAA/adidas. In 2007, Kira Bilecky and Parrissa Eyorokon joined Annette Kent as Purdue All-Americans. Kent was honored as Purdue's first All-American in 2003, being named to the NSCAA/adidas All-America second team. Eyorokon was tabbed to the first team following the 2007 campaign while Bilecky earned a spot on the NSCAA/adidas third team.
Purdue claimed its highest number of all-conference players in 2007 with six. Bilecky, Eyorokon, Shauana Stapleton and Jordyn Shaffer were all first-team selections while Christy Riggle and Jenny Bradfisch made the second team. More impressive was the fact that the Boilermakers won three of the four conference individual awards. Klatte was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second time in six years, Eyorokon was voted Offensive Player of the Year and Jessica Stellhorn became the Boilermakers' second Freshman of the Year in three seasons.
Purdue's award collection is a direct result of individuals believing they are the best student-athlete they possibly can be.
"When push comes to shove, when you are truly tested against someone who is either your equal or superior, you must honestly know that you deserve to win - know that you trained harder, longer, endured more hardship, risked more of your heart," says Klatte. "I believe this feeling will allow you to look at yourself in the mirror after a loss and say that there was nothing else that you could have done. The time and effort required to achieve such mental strength is immense."
4.) Maximizing Potential Purdue soccer's mission, year after year, is to win the NCAA championship, a goal that is appearing increasingly more in reach. Purdue eventually attained the program's highest national ranking at No. 4 in late October of 2007 and received a No. 2 seed while playing host to the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
Klatte attacks every season with all the fervor of a coach that plans on making noise once again on the national stage. The Boilermakers have never shied away from highly-competitive teams at home or on the road, facing opponents from all over the country. For non-conference play, Purdue has hosted universities from Florida, Texas and Oregon and traveled to California and Colorado among other destinations.
"As a team, we chart everything we do," says Klatte. "Every fitness activity and every small-sided match are charted, every goal noted, every win-loss-tie recorded. I want players to train in an environment that's demanding - an environment that replicates the game. Games are competitive, so practice must be as well."
Before the Boilermakers even think about hitting the field, they are required to pass a multitude of fitness tests in the spring and when they return again in August for mini-camp. A sport that requires its competitors to run for 90 minutes demands nothing less than athletes who are prepared to go 90+ two or three days per week.
Klatte and his coaching staff monitor each student-athlete as she sprints for distance and for endurance. The Boilermakers are not only expected to play competitively during their summers for local clubs, but also remain engaged in their fitness regimen.
Prior to Purdue
Klatte came to West Lafayette with a wealth of soccer coaching experience. He was the head coach at Wright State from 1994 to 1996, where he took over a struggling program and built it to a third-place Metro Collegiate Conference finisher with an 11-10 record in his final season. It marked the Raiders' best record and first winning campaign since 1991. In 1992 and 1993, Klatte was an assistant coach at Cincinnati. Before that, he served as head coach at Baylor, his alma mater, in 1990 and 1991 and guided the Bears to the 1991 Texas Intercollegiate Soccer Championship.
Klatte has been involved in the Region II Olympic Development Program since 1995. He has acted as a state and regional head coach.
A native of Fallbrook, Calif., Klatte holds an NSCAA National Diploma, a U.S. Soccer `A' license and was a member of the NCAA Division I Women's Regional Ranking Committee for two seasons. He earned a B.A. in business and history in 1989 and an M.A. in history in 1992 from Baylor. Klatte and his wife, Alyssa, live near Burlington, Ind. They have four children, Isabella, 12, Quinn, 10, Aspen, 4, and Takoda, 2.