With Longtime FC Milwaukee Players Leading the Way, the Muskego Warriors HS Soccer Team is Poised for Another Run at State
In 2008 the Muskego Warriors high school soccer team reached the state championship for the 2nd time in their history. This season, the squad is currently ranked 3rd in the state and is undefeated with significant wins over Catholic Memorial, Kenosha Tremper and Wauwatosa West. Coach Eric Hess and all the former Muskego coaches deserve praise for producing a soccer power on the level of the Brookfield’s, Homestead and Wauwatosa’s. But as all high school coaches of the skill sports know, the road to the championships begins long before the kids walk through the doors of high school.
In the year 2001 Art Pope, Steve Weiner and Peter Kallio (whose kids were 9 at the time) decided to seek out a program that could provide more for their kids than their own parent coaching; enter FC Milwaukee. This match seemed to fit about as well as a Homestead Highlander – Muskego Warrior Football merger. After all why would FC Milwaukee who was practicing at Brown Deer Park, on the northeastern edge of Milwaukee, want to travel to coach kids from Muskego? Not to mention why would Muskego families get involved in a soccer club on the other side of town? Steve Weiner, “"We as a group of parent coaches recognized that our sons needed the next level of quality coaching that we were unable to provide. Making the decision to move to FC Milwaukee, although it appeared inconvenient, proved to be the perfect decision. The emphasis that FC Milwaukee coaches place on building strong soccer skills and learning how they see and play the game has really paid off. Today we have sons that have a passion for the game and the skills to match. It has been rewarding to see that combination provide opportunities for our sons to help achieve success for Muskego High School".
Thankfully for both groups involved, the inconvenience of distance gave way to the logic of providing quality coaching. For the players involved and Muskego high school, the sacrifice and commitment have paid off. On their road to the 2008 State Championship match, 4 of the Muskego starting 11 came from that original team: Riley Weiner, Jacob Pope, Tim Dahl and Lance Rank. In the last two years combined these players have contributed to a 41-4-1 and record and have helped continue their 31 game conference winning streak. Weiner, Pope and Dahl were all 2nd team all conference as juniors.
Coach Eric Hess recognizes the impact of these players both as in their play and their approach to the team. “These four are quiet leaders who lead by example. Their 100% effort during games and practice is what drives our team. They never put anyone down, and are always the voice of encouragement. We will miss them next year.” FC Milwaukee Coaching Director Peter Knezic was on hand for the 2008 State Final, “It was great to see that group of kids make it to a High School State Championship. I remember sitting down with Art, Steve and Peter all those years ago and thinking these are good guys who just want the best for their kids. I wanted to make it happen for them and for our club. I remember those kids well too: Lance was the hulking power, Tim the quiet cerebral player few noticed, Jacob the weaving maestro of countless goals, and Riley the consummate playmaker. ”
The small merger paid off for FC Milwaukee as well. In the early years it was an adventure, FC Milwaukee sent a coach to Muskego 2 nights a week and the team drove to Brown Deer Park 1 night per week. The team was talented, or as talented as a U10 team can be. After 2 years, the Muskego boys merged with the FC Milwaukee U12 team and started travelling for every practice. The group eventually won 3 straight Wisconsin State Cup Championships, due in no small part to the addition of the Muskego contingency. Today Tim and Lance play on FC Milwaukee’s U18 Blue team while Riley and Jacob play on FC Milwaukee’s United States Soccer Development Academy team.
What’s changed in 10 years; not much. Lance is still the strongest kid on the field with a lethal right footed serve and an acrobatic flip-throw. Tim is still the quiet one, and though often unnoticed, subtly takes care of business game after game, Pope at 6’3 is no longer weaving but his lethal cuts and extended frame make him a match up problem for every opponent and Weiner is still playmaking enough to already garner the Journal/Sentinel Athlete of the Week. Jacob Pope says their history together pays off the on the field. “We’ve played with each other forever and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We certainly trust each other and know what is going to happen before it happens.”
In their senior year these 4 are poised to lead their team to another trip to the state final and possibly a state championship. Wide midfielder Jacob Pope see’s no limit to the team’s success if they stay focused. “We have a good team this year and the juniors have really stepped up. It isn’t going to be easy to repeat last year’s run but I think we can do it.”
With an unbeaten record, a proven coach and a group of seniors that can finish each other’s sentences, not to mention passes, another state final appearance and possibly victory is a real possibility.
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