Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Beat The Best To Be The Best

Dustin Ashley, a captain on the 2015 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be the new blog author for the squad this season. He will be blogging all year long on the UWM website.

Today is his fourth entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


The nights are starting to get a bit colder and fall has officially begun. Where is the time going? These last few weeks have been incredibly busy, as a team and on a personal level. It has set me back a bit on my blogging; so let me catch you up on what’s happening in the life of Milwaukee Panther Soccer.

Two weekends ago, we were on the road heading to Michigan to take on last year's Horizon League Champions, Oakland. We got down there early evening on Friday and grabbed some quick sandwiches and were able to go watch our lady panthers play Oakland as well. It was a buggy night, with a dewy pitch, but that didn’t stop Panther Maria Stephans from taking over the game and scoring two goals to lead the team to a win after scoring a late penalty kick goal, and then a banger in overtime.

But we were on a business trip to take care of our own matters with what we knew was to be a tough contest for us to open Horizon League play. It was Oakland’s homecoming weekend and the game drew a good fan base. The game was a battle. Nick Moon hit a bouncing ball off the post that would have literally been a buzzer-beater goal. Regulation ended scoreless. In extra time, a ball came bouncing off the cross bar, and fell to Tinashe. This ball came to him at about six yards from goal, very very close to the goal if I must. He somehow found a way to kick the ball over the goal. He will never hear the end of that one. However, the night was captured by another freshman. Francesco, stood over the ball on a free kick with three minutes to play. He took his shot and put it in the back of the net, then took off running to celebrate with the crew. It was a massive win for us to get us back on track in terms of results and for our conference record.

When we got back home, it was a new feeling for us as we had a whole week until our next game. We have had midweek games and lots of traveling during the weeks prior so it was a nice feeling to be back home for a bit. It was a week filled of getting caught up with schoolwork, new haircuts, and lots of media coverage. Francesco was in front of the camera talking through his game-winning goal, and the freshman internationals put together a cool interview story with Fox 6. Felt as if these younger boys were pushing us elder players to the side. Last week also, every team was invited to attend a presentation by guest speaker Dr. Greenfield. It was a great event where we talked about some extremely powerful messages and brought this Panther Family together.

The week of training was very competitive and the work rate was up. We got after it quite a bit in preparation to host UIC at Engelmann Field. It felt as if we hadn’t played a home game in a very long time after being on the road so much. The game had two red cards handed out, one to each team, and ended in a 1-1 tie. A game we felt as if we could have picked up a win, as we expect to win every time we step on the field, but with the circumstances the game came to, getting a tie out of is was okay. It puts our squad still unbeaten at home on the year and unbeaten in conference. We will take the week to get back to work in preparation for Valparaiso next weekend for another home matchup. I have been notified that our very own Laurie Bell will be in attendance next Saturday for our game. Be sure to arrive early to get your autographs.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

West Coast Adventures

Dustin Ashley, a captain on the 2015 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be the new blog author for the squad this season. He will be blogging all year long on the UWM website.

Today is his third entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


Two weeks into school and it’s safe to say everything is into full swing of things: classes, soccer and our social lives. We are all finding our weekly schedules falling into routines. It has also become a weekly thing for us to ask Strength and Conditioning coach Matt Holt for a full game recap from his Wednesday night coed C League indoor soccer games. He is rather giddy every Wednesday afternoon for our team warm ups knowing he is getting back onto the field himself. His game tactics strictly include kicking hard and running fast. He has picked up a few cards for plowing opponents over, and we still await our first career goal.

This past weekend our squad hopped on an airplane and headed out to Spokane, Washington, to take on Houston Baptist and Gonzaga in the Gonzaga Classic. It was a bit of a rough departure as Thursday morning’s report date to the locker room to set off to the airport was 4:30 A.M. You can bet there wasn’t much atmosphere in the locker room that morning. Whenever you travel as a team through the airport, you turn a lot of heads and get a lot of questions. The classic, “So what team are you guys”, while every single team member has a Milwaukee Soccer team polo on.

After we landed and got all settled into our hotel, we took a walk through Gonzaga’s campus to find an area where we could do a bit of jogging and stretching to loosen up our traveled legs and break a sweat, and coach even hopped in himself. The campus was beautiful, as well as their newly built soccer stadium. The facilities and hospitality were great. We took on Houston Baptist early the next morning where we dropped a 2-1 loss. Once again, felt we were the better team of the match. Matthias Binder scored a great goal to tie the game up, but we conceded a goal later on, in which we thought we could of defended better. Our second game of the trip, we took on tournament hosts Gonzaga. We knew coming into the game that they were a tough team to play against, with a group of hard working guys. We certainly rose to the occasion and matched their work rate. We felt good about our efforts and fight throughout the game, but once again disappointed with a 1-0 loss. With the team’s record not looking the best on paper, we are fully confident in our system and our abilities. We have a very talented group this year and play very attractive soccer. We are extremely close to putting together a full game, sharp in both the offensive and defensive thirds.

Good friend of mine and fellow captain, Declan Rodriguez, was lucky to have his family make the trip down from Vancouver to support him. On our recovery day, Zach Stevenson and myself got the chance to spend some time together with them as well. We journeyed to a nearby shopping mall. As I didn’t find anything that caught my eye, the shop included a purchase of some rascal camouflage pants from Dex. We were fortunate to sit down and have a nice lunch with Declan’s family. As always, I was picked on for my plain diet habits and getting a regular cheeseburger. The final night spent in Spokane, things heated up when a very close teammate of mine received a very sincere text message from his special lady friend that left a few of us wondering about his market availability. We may have lost another good man to the relationship bug, but as good teammates we are, we will support him through it.

In all, the weekend was another good experience where our staff was able to put us in a very professional setting in terms of getting to travel and playing in a fantastic collegiate environment. With a few upsetting previous results, all our focusd has now switched to this weekend where we will travel to Michigan to take on last year’s Horizon League champions, Oakland. It will be a good Oakland team to play against in our conference opener, but our guys are certainly ready for it.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Long Throw Ins Over Labor Day Weekend

Dustin Ashley, a captain on the 2015 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be the new blog author for the squad this season. He will be blogging all year long on the UWM website.

Today is his second entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


After our disappointing result on the road to Creighton, the fellas went straight back to work in preparation to host the Milwaukee Cup, bringing Marquette University back to our campus. The staff in the Athletics offices put a lot of time and effort into the promotion of this game and it certainly paid off. This matchup always draws in a great crowd, but pairing it this year with our Welcome Week featured game brought in an incredible mass of students. There’s nothing better when your fan support is so loud that we couldn’t even hear our names for the starting line up introductions.

The game came to a 1-1 tie after a late Marquette goal, which the current Milwaukee Cup champions being Marquette, ended up keeping the trophy. I can say it was certainly something new not having to mention Axel Sjoberg’s name in the scouting report and how to deal with all 8 feet of him on set pieces.

As a group, we were very pleased with the brand of soccer we played in that game, but obviously, as a senior and being my last crack at the Golden Eagles, it was a result we wish we could of grabbed a win in. Freshman Tinashe Marowa picked up his first collegiate goal and what a game to score it in. Many would have probably just ran into the massive group of Panther fans right in front of him behind the goal, but for some strange reason, he insisted to turn straight around and run to coach and jump into his arms.

I had the pleasure to room with Tinashe, commonly known on the team as “T”, on the road for the Bradley game. We watched the movie “Southpaw” and got to chatting a bit. I asked him if he had met any nice ladies from the dorms yet, and he carried on to tell me that he was getting a bunch of messages after the Marquette game. Goes to show that the women love the guys who score the goals. What a bummer it truly is being a defender.

We traveled down to Peoria, Ill., where we faced Bradley University. We knew going into the game that they weren’t going to play pretty soccer, with a game plan of being extremely direct and utilizing their left back to take five minutes every dead ball to jog up and launch a long throw in into the box. Which is exactly the way we conceded our goal in the 86th minute. As a group, we need to better in both final thirds of the play, offensively and defensively, and certainly on restarts. We emphasize being a hard team to play against and we mold our style of play and game plan to be just that. It is safe to say it wasn’t a very talkative bus ride home after dropping that result, not to mention the air conditioning on the bus wasn’t doing us any favors on a 90-degree day.

The squad will get right back after it on the training pitch to fine tune things before heading out to Spokane, Washington to take on Houston Baptist and Gonzaga. There may even be a light strength training recovery session in the weight room that freshman Josh Kaye will be taking full advantage of, looking to seriously bulk up and gain an additional 50 lbs. along with his high calorie diet plan we have him on. Hope all you fellow Panthers and Panther fans had a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend and were able to relax and recover to take on another week.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Newness Of All Sorts

Dustin Ashley, a captain on the 2015 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will be the new blog author for the squad this season. He will be blogging all year long on the UWM website.

Today is his first entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


Hello, and welcome back all Milwaukee Panthers and fans! Many of you followers are probably very familiar with the legendary 'Bell’s Blog', written by former player Laurie Bell. As another Milwaukee Panther Men’s Soccer season opens, we are happy to say that the past author of Bell’s Blog has moved on to pursue his professional career as a Tulsa Roughneck, playing in the USL Pro League. When duty calls, I didn’t think there would be anyone to be a better fit than Laurie’s old roommate to take on the honors to keep the blogging rolling of the men’s soccer ins and outs for this up coming fall season.

With that being said, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Dustin Ashley and I am a senior captain on the team this year. This is my fourth year here as a Milwaukee Panther. I played my freshman year of college soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Deciding to transfer has lead me to a great experience academically and athletically, and not to mention meeting the incredible people that have come into my life along the way.

With everyone else just recently talking about their summers coming to an end with classes starting this week, our guys have already wrapped up our summer fun and have been hard at work for quite some time now already. We asked all of our guys, returners and incoming players, to report for captain’s practices, which were training sessions led by our other captain, Declan Rodriguez and myself. We spent our mornings playing small-sided games and taking team runs down to the beach, and our evenings finding air mattresses and couches for all the international guys to sleep on before moving into the dorms. It’s safe to say we became a tight group pretty quickly. We had a big incoming class. There is a lot of newness around the locker room, but filled with some good personalities and characters, with some still struggling to find their banter. This is a team filled with great soccer players, as well as great people this year.

Everyone was excited to get things rolling for preseason and the vibe in the camp was great. Knowing we had our first exhibition game only three days into preseason, we knew we had to come in fit and get right to work. Our first exhibition game vs. Loyola ended in a 1-1 tie. We were able to get everyone quality minutes as we played two completely different squads each half. A few days later we took the road and traveled to SIUE for our second and final preseason game. The home team certainly brought out the numbers in the stands, as it was their freshman welcome game. We traveled back home after suffering a 2-0 loss.

For the most part, we were all ready for our season and home opener with healthy bodies and our individual roles within the team figured out. We hosted Evansville at Engelmann Field, where we laid a smack down on them in front of our home fans on a rainy evening for a 5-2 win, which could have easily been an even bigger goal margin. With our confidence high, we hopped on a bus the next day heading off to Nebraska to take on #4 Creighton. We knew we were going to have our hands full playing an opponent of that caliber, but felt that we were also a very tough team and prepared so that we would give ourselves the best chance to get a result. Creighton provided a very professional environment for us, with an incredible stadium, great crowd, and a hotel that had many of the guys sending snapchats of how impressive it was. We fell to Creighton in a 4-0 loss in a game that we felt we weren’t as sharp as we need to be. All in all, our guys came away with a very good experience under our belts playing one of the best teams in the country.

As a team, we couldn’t sit around and sulk on our loss though, with Thursday bringing one of the best college soccer rivalries in the country to our campus. UWM vs. Marquette is a cross-town rivalry that attracts great crowds and a heated game to claim the Milwaukee Cup. It is our freshman welcome game so we should have a sea of black and gold, rowdy fans lead by our very own Michael Poll.

So I will do my best this season to share with you all our game results, where we are at as a team, and even some inside information that the public is dying to get their hands on. I know it will be tough to fill the shoes of Bell’s Blog, but I will certainly do my best. Hope you all follow along all season and get behind us for another great Milwaukee Panther Soccer season.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Seniors Not Ready to Say Goodbye

Laurie Bell, a captain on the 2014 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website.

Today is his fourth entry of the year as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior campaign.


As well as being a critical match in our season, tonight’s game is significant for another, more sentimental reason too: it’s senior night. When this season’s done – which we all hope is for a while still – the program will say goodbye to four of its servants, including three captains and three of us who have been here for at least four years.

The team will move on without us, and we will move on without the team. But for a time in each of our young lives, UWM soccer has been central to our existence. So, here are the men not quite ready to say goodbye:

For his recent Halloween costume, Kyle Neumann taped this year’s squad picture on his shoulders. When I saw he was wearing the photograph of us posing on Engelmann Field in front of the scoreboard, I asked him what the outfit meant. He replied: “I’m putting the team on my back.”

That’s Kyle. His bizarre sense of humor has provided UWM players with consistent laughs for almost half a decade now, even if we don’t always know what we’re laughing at. And throughout his career here, he has repeatedly sacrificed himself for the team. Except for putting on the goalie gloves, the Appleton native has done it all. He’s played in every position on the field without ever letting us down.

Luke Goodnetter joined the program three years ago. He couldn’t play his first year due to transfer issues, and so the biggest impression he had that fall was on the hearts of some of the UWM women’s team. “Who’s the new guy who looks like Ben Affleck?” one of them asked me. At that point, I didn’t know much about him myself.

But as soon as he could step on the field, he made an impact. The Affleck lookalike improved us with his standout midfield play last fall, and has stepped in capably at center back this year as well. And no matter how good looking he is, Luke will best be remembered for THAT volley he scored at Valparaiso last year.

I don’t know how Richard Johnson ended up in Milwaukee, and I don’t know what he’ll do after he leaves, but in his four and a half year career here he has been one of the most solid characters I have played alongside. Plucked from a Yorkshire chicken factory he was working in (whatever that entails), Jonno was offered a scholarship to America and probably thought ‘why not?’

Since he’s been here, he has performed strongly and been a rock in the locker room too. He’s fearless, he lets nothing faze him, and I can never quite tell whether he’s enjoying himself or not. But I do know that the program will miss a guy like Jonno, and so will I.

And finally, myself. Four years ago I took a chance, stumbling across the pond and finding myself in Milwaukee playing college soccer – wherever and whatever they were. I came looking for football and adventure, knowing I could always go home if things didn’t work out. I found both, and lots, lots more.

That tonight is almost certainly my final game on Engelmann is surreal. I remember my first match well. On a beautiful summer day, we lost 4-1, but I scored an equalizing goal just after half time and ran into the arms of celebrating fans thinking, “This is going to be fun.”

It has been. And now we must all ensure that this season has some more fun left in it.

So I think I speak for all four of us when I say thank you – to every teammate, coach and parent that have made our experiences in Milwaukee unforgettable – but not goodbye.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Structural Integrity

Laurie Bell, a captain on the 2014 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website.

Today is his third entry of the year as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior campaign.


Inconsistent, haphazard and intermittently impressive: adjectives as applicable to my blogging as they have been to our performances this season.

But after eight games without victory, we finally put together a showing befitting the talent we believe lies in our squad on Saturday. We played excellently and won 2-0. Upon the final whistle, a collective sigh of relief resounded round the stadium, and Panther players, coaches, parents and dogs released long-banished post-game smiles. Lo and behold, with the result, goal, and a new MacBook Air, my creative blogging juices flow once more.

Petter netted the opener with a fine first half header from a cross by converted full back Horvat. In a mixed season defensively, Aaron’s consistency in the new position – after playing his whole career as a forward – has been commendable. Luke Goodnetter’s long ball assisted our second and match-securing goal.

Keeping things clean at the other end, Liam Anderson and our back line nullified the opposition attack, giving us a complete team performance. The superstitious stopper claimed his good luck charm was a bacon, onion and barbeque pizza he treated himself to on Friday night – not a pre-match ritual the rest of us will be joining you in, mate!

Results or not, our team morale has been remarkably high all year. I think it’s because we understand that we’ve rarely been outclassed. Scorelines don’t lie, and conceding goals without scoring is recipe for unsatisfactory soccer. But losses have often been by margins as narrow as a Norwegian’s calves – just check out Magnus Flaatedal’s lower leg muscles to see what I mean.

And so we have kept a buoyant locker room, which has been heartening to be involved in. There have been times of testy tempers, but that is part of sport. A group of twenty-five testosterone-filled footballers will inevitably boil over on occasion, even when the going is good. But our togetherness has stayed intact, and will have to remain that way as we approach the season’s climax.

We have five games left. That’s frightening. With victories from those matches, we can extend that number to include post-season games, which puts this senior a little more at ease. Knowing my college years are almost over adds extra importance to each date on our schedule. The leaves have almost all fallen on the ground.

If it felt like Saturday’s first conference win lay the foundations for the rest of our year, then we’ll have to construct the floors, ceilings and roof pretty quickly. But ours is a group with structural integrity. And I’m betting, with everybody working to the same tune, we can still build something special.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Meaty Milwaukee Match-Up

Laurie Bell, a captain on the 2014 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website.

Today is his second entry of the year as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior campaign.


Demolishing a plate of baked beans on toast on my final Milwaukee Cup morning, I was struck by the bloglessness of recent Panther weeks. So here’s an update and look-ahead, as our season approaches its third-way stage.

Six games in, we have three wins and three losses. While the wins were convincing, inconsistency is not acceptable. We are a young and renovated team, but familiarity is coming and the talent is there. Our beefed up non-conference schedule this year has featured three top-25 ranked teams already, providing high-level opposition to measure ourselves against. We faced two this weekend on our trip to Washington D.C., without recording a result.

At least we saw the White House.

An easy analysis goes that we have fallen short against strong opponents. It’s true that we didn’t play many of the likes of Oregon State, George Mason or American during our blistering start to last season. But playing in and watching back our recent games, it’s clear that we have not been outclassed. We haven’t struggled to compete, and for long periods we dominated.

However, we learned that such teams are less forgiving. Typically, our mistakes have been punished with goals, and we haven’t been ruthless enough in attack. We must now inject ourselves with the lethal streak that pumped through our opponents.

So we’re 3 and 3, with the meat of the season still to come and a filet mignon of a fixture tonight.

Form goes out the window in a derby match. It’s a common sporting cliché that is fortunately rooted in absolute truth. And tonight we will be running on passion, heart and, personally, beans on toast at Valley Fields against rivals Marquette. When kick off rolls around at 7 p.m. we will be ready.

The Milwaukee Cup turns 41 this evening and after giving the trophy some fresh birthday air on the sidelines, we plan to return it, polished and rejuvenated, back to Coach Kelderman’s office shelf, where it has glittered for the past year.

In my time at UWM, I’ve won the cup twice, and heartbreakingly had it snatched away in the final second the last time we played at Marquette. Those of us involved that night still feel we owe our opponents one, and finishing my career with three servings of bragging rights would sit well.

This is a rivalry game unlike any I have ever been a part of, and it’s a special date on the College Soccer calendar. When I’m no longer a Panther in participation but only in spirit, I’ll miss these fixtures enormously. Which makes tonight especially poignant, and by the sounds of it the atmosphere will be incredible.

The Milwaukee Soccer Development Group, a band of the sport’s enthusiasts pushing for a professional team in town, have organized a Milwaukee Cup March. They challenge local fans to show support for soccer by meeting before the game at the Twisted Fisherman and marching together to Valley Fields. For more information go to: http://www.milsoccerdg.org/events.html. See you there, fellas! So with cups on the line both this evening and next Tuesday against NIU, followed by the beginning of Horizon League play, our early season appetizers are finished. The entrée is being prepared: It’s steak, and it will be served tonight.