Grace University has announced the addition of women’s soccer to its lineup of varsity athletic programs as part of an overall undergraduate and graduate program expansion and development of a top-ranked athletic program.
World Cup soccer player and former Husker Tanya Franck Benning has been selected as the first head coach of the women’s soccer team. Coach Benning has a strong collegiate and professional background and a solid reputation in the metro soccer community. Her strengths include her solid tactical skills and her talent for developing the character of her players. These traits make her a compelling recruiter both locally and nationally.
Grace University is in the first year of a three-year plan to expand the school’s athletic offerings. The plans include the addition of women’s soccer, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s track and field, and the addition of junior varsity teams, as well as the development of a soccer, baseball, and softball complex. Research is beginning to assess the feasibility of other sports including wrestling, lacrosse, and shooting sports. The Grace University Royals expansion also is being done in preparation to join NAIA and to move to the NCCAA Division I level, which increases the level of competition and scholarship opportunities for student-athletes.
“The historic, purposeful mission of Grace University is behind every expansion decision that is prayerfully considered by our faculty, staff and board of trustees,” said Dr. David Barnes, president of Grace University. “By giving Christian students and athletes greater opportunities to study in relevant academic programs, we are helping them reach God’s call on their life in today’s mission fields. The founders of this University recognized the need for biblically-centered Christian higher education, and our resolve is as strong today.”
Benning, a native Canadian, had a successful career as a Husker midfielder. She was co-captain for the Huskers for three seasons and earned numerous honors for her defensive play from 1994–1997. As a biochemistry major and communication minor, she earned spots on the Big 8 and Big 12 Academic Honor Rolls. Following graduation, she played four years for the Canadian national team, playing in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She then played two years for the United Soccer League’s Toronto Infernos.
After returning to Nebraska, Benning served as an assistant coach at UNO in 1999–2000 and volunteered as an assistant coach at Creighton University in 2002–2003. She joined Arsenal Club as the head coach from 2003–2005. Following the merger into the Omaha Football Club (OFC), Benning served as the head coach for the top two girls’ teams for the Academy Division and currently is the assistant coach for OFC’s Youth Development League.
Off the field, Benning has worked for Calvary Chapel West Omaha as a ministry assistant where she has been responsible for mentoring and counseling women and youth, as well as planning community outreaches.
Grace University, located in Omaha, Neb., is a regionally accredited, private Christian university with more than 40 diverse undergraduate, graduate and adult degree completion programs including education, business, psychology, music, nursing and Christian ministries. The university’s mission is to develop servant leaders for the home, the church and the world through excellence in biblically-integrated education.