Wednesday, November 11, 2015

All Good Things Come To An End

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 seventh and final entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


It almost seems as if things started to turn a corner for us a little too late. We closed out our season with Western Illinois, Detroit and Northern Kentucky. We had Western Illinois come to us on a chilly Tuesday evening. Seniors Declan Rodriguez and Zach Stevenson were both able to bag goals in the 2-0 win over the Leathernecks, a game we always share between the two sides every season. It was a nonconference game for us, but our guys have a mentality of every time we step on the pitch, we expect to win, especially at home in front of our fans.

Following that game, we had the rest of the week to get after things before the weekend when we would head to Detroit for a must-win Horizon League game to keep our postseason hopes alive. Unfortunately, we gave up a goal in the second half and were unable to equalize. This indeed was the final punch that knocked us out of the running for the Horizon League tournament. It was a difficult thing for the group to grasp, especially the seniors, knowing we only had one more week as college athletes. Regardless of the situation, nobody in the locker room put their head down, and we stayed hard at work that final week of training. We welcomed 2nd-place Northern Kentucky for our final game of the 2015 season. We started all but one senior and were able to comfortably handle the game with a 4-0 win, and then entire team saw minutes, which was awesome. It was so cool that all the seniors, even the international guys, were able to have their parents present for the game.

For all the readers, who may or may not know me personally, I want to reflect on my collegiate career. I began my college soccer career at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. After I felt like I was able to make an impact at the Division 2 level, I wanted to see if there were any Division 1 options still available for me. After exploring a few options, I committed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I would spend my next four years playing soccer and pursuing a marketing degree.

Deciding to come to UWM has been bigger than soccer for me though, it has become my life. I have been able to apply myself to not only a great athletic department, but also opportunities that have allowed me to network and gain the tools and experience I will need for when I graduate. This University has been so good to me. I have been able to find myself a role within the Athletic Board, as well as the Student Athletic Advisory Committee president. I have been able to play and work for some great staff members, and have met some of my best friends. I can honestly say that Milwaukee was the place that I was set out to be.

This season didn’t play out the way I expected my senior year to go, but I guess that’s how the game is. It can take you great places, and can also be severely brutal. I step away from UWM soccer leaving as a better athlete, and as a better person. UWM as a University, and a soccer program, will always be a part of me. Thank you to everyone who has impacted me here, and allowed me to cross paths with you, as well as all my blog readers throughout the season. Until next time…


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Search of A Winning Spark

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 sixth entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


It’s been quite a relief being at home for these last few weeks. I apologize to all the readers for not getting a blog out sooner. It has been a busy last couple of weeks with classes and coaching, as well as both midweek and weekend games.

Last Wednesday we hosted in-state rival Green Bay in the final cup game of the season, playing to host the Chancellor’s Cup, and we were in need of another conference win as well. The boys were certainly up for the importance of the game, but we fell to the Phoenix in a 2-0 battle.

This past weekend also we were lucky to have another home conference game against Wright State, the team that eliminated us from the Horizon League Tournament last year, so we had a bone to pick with them. As a group, we made a few tactical changes to put ourselves in the best position to get a result against a very good Wright State team, but we were unable to find the back of the net and suffered a 1-0 defeat.

A few of the guys have picked up some knocks along the way as well. Freshman left back and English dream boy Josh Kaye has been most likely sidelined with an ankle injury for the remainder of the season. He can be found crutching around campus if anyone wishes to piggyback him to class. Some of the mothers of the team have been teaming up and making us meals for after our games, and the spread has been incredible. There was a taco/pasta salad that was a heavy hit and the recipe was immediately asked for by fellow captain Declan Rodriguez. It was good to see him pursuing other meals to cook at home as he’s recently been going with routine microwaved smores.

Despite not getting the results we have been hoping for as of late, the guys are still in good spirits. Everyone shows up every day ready to work to get out of this little slump we are in, and we will. We have a very good group of players and we will find a way to grind out games. We know what we need to achieve to allow us to find a way into postseason play and we are very committed to fulfilling that, as we all hold the same expectations. We have instilled a mindset that every game, every play matters, and we strive to be sharp at all moments of the game.

The guys have been getting the job done off the field as well with their commitments in the classroom. Tuesday night at the women’s volleyball game, the athletic department acknowledged the student athletes from each team that reached a 3.0 GPA last semester in the classroom and we had a good number of our guys that achieved that.

Next up, our last in-state rival, the Wisconsin Badgers will be coming to Engelmann Field Wednesday night. Both teams are looking to bounce back with a win, making it a key showdown. Next time checking in with my blog followers, I will be sharing with you winning results instead!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sticking To Our LeWang Ways

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 fifth entry of the campaign as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior season.


Pumpkins are hitting the porches, green and gold are filling campus on Packer game days, and stadium coats and pants are coming out for night games. Fall is an awesome time of the year. There is always so much going on within the city of Milwaukee and Horizon League soccer is getting into the heart of conference play. It has been a pleasant change having a few games back at Englemann to play in front of our home fans and not having to travel as much. It was a key last couple of weeks with us being able to get some quality training sessions in and get the guys with some knocks the proper treatment to get healthy again. The athletic department has been generous enough to help us athletes with our recovery after training sessions by getting us chocolate milk, granola bars and fruit. We have been very appreciative of having these recovery snacks to enjoy while ice bathing after a few hours of hard work on the field. But you must keep a look out for Ox, our team trainer, as if one has an open chocolate milk on the carpeting, you’re in for an ear full.

We had yet another home conference match against Valparaiso, a regionally-ranked opponent who has been grinding out wins as of late. It was a chilly Saturday night, with fan bundled in blankets and the hot chocolate was in full force. The game was wide open for a majority of the match, both teams struggling to find a chance to bury away. Unfortunately, Valpo caught us out of shape and countered to score what would be the games only goal. It was our team’s first conference and home loss. It was good to see the guys so upset with the result though, as we, as an entire group have been playing great football and our team expectations are extremely high this year. We just need to start picking up the results we deserve to show for our efforts. We couldn’t dwell on the game though. Talking as a group, we felt that we needed to be better in the final 3rd, meaning in front of the goal, we had to finish our chances. Our training sessions were structured around just that. Our staff challenged us the following week of training in various finishing games, combination activities, and lots of repetitions of crossing and finishing.

We also were able to squeeze our annual team photo in this last week for the 2015 fall squad. The team photos have been said to be hot commodities around campus amongst the female student body. Just what I have heard. Also, a roster update. Our goal keepers always wear different colors at training and what a pleasant surprise it is to see the blue/red wearing goof balls in full force again. Freshman Sam Glass is back to consistent training after battling an ankle issue. And ... there has been a return of the legendary John Stahr, a great goal keeper who has put in lots of time and commitment the past few years who stepped away after last fall. It is great having Johnny Stahr back in the locker room and on the pitch, as he always brings great leadership to the group by leading by example with his training work ethic.

Tuesday night, we set off for a road game to DeKalb, Illinois to take on annual opponents, Northern Illinois. This is one of our three cup games, where the winner takes possession of the LeWang Cup. I personally told the group in our pre-match chat, that this is my fourth season here at UWM and not once have we allowed NIU to take possession of the LeWang Cup, and tonight wasn’t going to be any different. They were also a regionally-ranked team coming into the night. We conceded a set piece goal that we felt was a soft goal to give up. The second half, we challenged the group to test our character and see how hard we could fight to get back into this game, and we rose to the test. John Stadler came on in the second half and found himself on the end of a set piece back post and buried it. A few minutes later, Nick Moon created some space on his own and whipped a curing shot in around the keeper. And once again we raised the Lewang trophy at the end of the night. It is personally sitting right next to me on the bus in the seat next to me. Assistant coach Luke Goodnetter, former teammate of mine, approached me at half time and told me to really get the guys going and jacked up to battle the second half, as we can’t let games slip away from us. The season flies by and he told me as a senior, if that happened, I would certainly regret it. It’s nights like these that make college soccer special. Tonight was a night that I will remember where our guys found a way to get the job done, and get this trophy right back to coach’s office where it belongs.

This win honestly feels like a momentum change. With the style of football we play and how well we keep the ball for the majority of games, we deserve to win games. We will use this game as a standard and example of how we need finish games out and find ways to pick up 3 points. Off to Belmont this weekend for the program’s first road game at their university. The team has every intention of sticking to our winning ways and securing another conference win. Maybe even throwing on the cowboy boots and flannels and getting out to see a bit of the historic musical city. Looking forward to the game, not the 10-hour trek. For all the local Milwaukee Panther fans, while we are away, follow along with the game, but hope you can all get out and enjoy Oktoberfest in the city. See you all back home next week!


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.