Friday, May 28, 2010

Milwaukee Men's Soccer Spring Season Recap

The Panthers recently completed a successful spring season with a 2-2-2 schedule, a record that improved to 4-2-0 after two victories decided on penalty kicks and a team title in the Wisconsin Spring Cup. That event was hosted by Marquette and UWM competed against the Golden Eagles, Wisconsin and Green Bay. Last fall, senior Nicholas Gerard-Larson kept everyone up to date on the men's team with "GL's Journal", a weekly blog that he wrote over the course of the season. For the 2010 campaign, Peter Sanger will be taking over that role. Today's post is his introduction and assessment of the spring slate.

Welcome Panther Soccer fans to my first installment of "Sanger's Scoop". I'll be taking over the blog responsibilities for the men's soccer team from Nick Gerard-Larson for this upcoming fall soccer season. For a quick introduction, I'll be headed into my fourth and final season for the Panthers and usually ply my trade on the outside of midfield for our team. I'm hoping to provide the fans with an inside view of how things are going on the team and to keep you in the loop on all of our activities...

Going into this spring there were a lot of unknowns. Not only was there the question of who would be coaching the team, but also who would still be here playing for it. The lack of a coach at the beginning might have been a blessing in disguise, however. It separated the committed from those just along for the ride, as only the dedicated show up to optional workout and training sessions. The spring season, although considered non-competitive, is probably the toughest part of college soccer. Being in Wisconsin, the beginning of the semester is dominated by weight lifting, running around an indoor track and playing small-sided games in the gym.

By the time we come back from spring break, we're all chomping at the bit to get outside and stretch our legs on a real field. By this time we had confirmed our new head coach, Chris Whalley, hailing from England and more recently Lees-McRae College where he led the Bobcats to a national title game in the NCAA Division II Tournament. There was still one catch though; he had to wait on a new visa before he could officially come join us. Coach-less, we were lucky enough for former alumni, Kyle Zenoni, to step in and fill the role of interim coach. Kyle immediately proved he was a perfect fit; providing the organization and motivation for us to improve ahead of next fall. We began our daily training regimen on the turf of Bradley Tech High School, with Kyle watching for who was looking sharp ahead of nearing spring matches. After each practice, Kyle would call Coach Whalley and tell him how everything went, giving him an idea of how we were progressing before he could come join us officially.

The matches' portion of the spring season really saw us come into our own. The negativity and team dissension had been replaced with a renewed vigor and team belief. Despite dropping the first game to Northern Illinois, anybody watching could tell a new brand of soccer was being brought to UWM. Quick ball movement, a heavy dose of dangerous wing play accompanied with disciplined defending were present throughout all of our games in the spring leading to consecutive wins over UW-Parkside and Lewis College. Then two ties turned wins via shootout in the Wisconsin Spring Cup over in-state rivals Marquette and UW-Madison only increased the momentum. A 4-3 loss to Madison (Coach Whalley's first game on the bench), on an indoor field with 8 players per side brought an end to our match schedule for the fall. Scoring 10 goals in six spring contests versus 12 goals all of last fall provided the proof that we had become a new team. However, scoring more goals wasn't the biggest accomplishment of the spring; the winning mentality instilled should prove to be invaluable in the fall '10 season.

My last spring season at UWM has undoubtedly provided me with the most self and team belief going into a fall season since I've been here. Growing up as a local kid, one thing I always dreamed of was donning the black and gold out on Engelmann Field as a part of arguably Wisconsin's strongest and most successful soccer program. To be brutally honest, the glory I expected really hasn't materialized yet, but next year is a fresh start and I'm looking forward to being the start of something special here at UWM. So whether you can make it to one game or all of them, I can guarantee you it will be worth the price of admission. I'm looking forward to letting you all in on the inside scoop next fall, so make sure to continue checking the website as the summer progresses. Any questions until then, just ask!

-Peter #10