Soccer alumni and players play to save their program

Austin Walther

The annual UW Oshkosh men’s soccer alumni game was held Saturday night on J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium, and this year, the game was centered on saving the program. In addition to the game, there was a pre and postgame social event for alumni and family to begin the efforts in saving the UW Oshkosh men’s soccer team. In the past, the game has varied when it’s been played, but this year the alumni chose to hold it in the spring due to the timing of the program being eliminated. The game itself, which ended in a 1-1, tie featured more than 50 former players participating. Current head coach Wytse Molenaar said it was a testament to the soccer program. “Everyone that played on Saturday still plays soccer one way or another,” Molenaar said The game was played with former players rotating in lines from different eras to play against the current players. The first line of alumni was from when the program originated in 1984, and former head coach Toby Bares said it was nice to see a good turnout from them. “Those guys are the old timers,” Bares said. “After the first 10 minutes of play, they left the field, were recognized and then the game turned up a bit.” Normally, Oshkosh plays 20 guys per game, but against the alumni, the Titans were limited to 11 fully healthy players. Among the 11 who played were guys who don’t always play a lot of minutes and Molenaar said he was very happy with the way they responded. “The team has a lot of potential,” Molenaar said. “Saturday was all about seeing how our squad will be next year.” Peter Dillett, chairman of the fundraising committee from the class of 1999, said he was extremely impressed with all of the current players. “It was an honor to play with those guys,” Dillett said. “They have the talent to do really special things in the fall.” Junior Trent Allison was able to score the only goal for the Titans on Saturday night. The alumni tied the score late in the game on a goal from Mike Franzen, a member of the 2010 Final Four team. Even though the game ended in a tie, junior Jonathan Stanley said everyone was able to come together. “Overall it was a good day,” Stanley said. “We played really well as a team and we were able to catch up with the alumni.” Along with the 50 former players who actually played, another 50 were either in the stands or showed up afterwards. Molenaar said this is by far the most alumni he has seen show up for the event. “For the past five years, we usually get around 20 or so,” Molenaar said. “This year there were about 90 to 100 for the entire night.” He said what impressed him the most was the fact that former players traveled from all over the country to be at the event. “The amount of alumni at the event was incredible,” Molenaar said. “It really shows what the Titans men’s soccer family is all about.” Dillett said he traveled from Texas to play in the game. “The biggest highlight of the weekend was reconnecting with my former teammates,” Dillett said. Bares said he liked the way the whole day was handled. “The game is always about connecting former players with the current players,” Bares said. “The coaches and players did a fantastic job of hosting it this year.” Molenaar said there’s a better story coming out of the men’s soccer program right now. “All the guys made a commitment to the team,” Molenaar said. “They all chose to come back and play next year.”