Players and coaches find new homes

Erik Buchinger

The 2015 men’s soccer team finished their final season with an 11-4-3 overall record and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament and lost 2-0 vs. St. Olaf (Minn.).
[/media-credit] The 2015 men’s soccer team finished their final season with an 11-4-3 overall record and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament and lost 2-0 vs. St. Olaf (Minn.).

The men’s soccer team, along with the men’s tennis team, is set to be eliminated following the 2015-16 academic year, which was announced on April 6. Since the program’s final season concluded in November, members of the UW Oshkosh men’s soccer team needed to make a decision that would impact their academic and athletic futures. “You have to look at the whole picture and find out what’s important for you,” soon-to-be-former Oshkosh men’s soccer head coach Wytse Molenaar said of the advice he gave the players. The Titans had 30 players on their final roster this season, including eight seniors. Of the 22 players with eligibility remaining, five confirmed they have either transferred or plan to transfer from UWO, including freshmen Nic Harenda and Tyler Howard, sophomores Jakub Rys and Javier Simon, and junior Kevin Schenk. Harenda, Rys and Simon are currently taking classes at UWO and will make the move for the fall semester to continue their collegiate soccer careers. According to Simon, he did not have thoughts of transferring until the season concluded nearly three months ago. At first, he was committed to staying at Oshkosh because of the friends he had made, the classes he enjoyed and he even signed a lease for the 2016-17 school year. “When [the season] was over, I started rethinking things and went through everything in my head again,” Simon said. “I was like, ‘Wow, it’s really over.’ Then, over the next couple of months, that was the only thing on my mind.” In the end, Simon decided he would enroll at Loras College, a Division III school in Dubuque, Iowa, which was his second college choice out of high school. The Duhawks were the national runners-up in 2015 that also featured his brother, Jorge Simon. According to Simon, he would return to school in Oshkosh if the program were to come back. “If the team was reinstated today, I would call Loras the minute after, saying, ‘I’m really sorry, but this is my home,’” Simon said. While his soccer program is being cut, Harenda is heading for a program that will begin its inaugural season in the fall at Northern Michigan University, a Division II school. “For me, it’s kind of a cool situation going from something so special where it ended and moving into something that’s brand new,” Harenda said. A former coach of Harenda’s knew Northern Michigan’s coach, which eventually led to Harenda receiving a scholarship to play soccer. “I’m looking forward to the whole experience of it being a step up, so it will be tougher competition,” Harenda said. “I think we’ll have a good team and have a good year.” Rys said he intends to transfer for the fall, but he is still waiting on responses from two potential schools. Rys is interested in being a marine biologist, and he said UC Santa Cruz has one of the top programs in the country. “I’m really banking on Santa Cruz’s admissions,” Rys said. Rys visited Santa Cruz over winter break and said he came away impressed. “I loved that school,” Rys said. “I loved every second of it, and it’s a great school.” If he does not get admitted to Santa Cruz, Rys said he will likely enroll at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, which was his second choice behind Oshkosh out of high school. After finishing out their final seasons at UWO in the fall, Howard – who will play for the University of Dubuque – and Schenk have already enrolled at their new schools for the spring semester. Schenk said he was in the process of switching his major from business to education around the same time the University announced its decision but wanted to finish his soccer career at Oshkosh. “I knew I wanted to play my final season, so that’s why I waited for the summer to figure everything out,” Schenk said. In the fall, Schenk applied and was accepted into Illinois State University. According to Schenk, when he was fairly certain the men’s soccer program would not come back, he officially made the decision to transfer. Schenk said his choice of Illinois State was strictly for academic reasons, and he will not be playing soccer but will miss the game as well as his friends in Oshkosh. “It’s definitely weird not being there,” Schenk said. “I miss everyone. I miss all my friends that I made there, but I had a really good time playing soccer and being able to do what I love.” A few Oshkosh players such as freshman Sean McCarthy, who is considering a transfer to Viterbo University or Clarke University, and junior Jacob Hernandez, who said he might pursue a Division I career at UW-Milwaukee, are still undecided whether or not to leave UWO. “I don’t want to look back on my college career wishing that I would have played my last year, but at the same time, it’s difficult given all the circumstances around my particular situation,” Hernandez said. For freshman Casey Brzeski, he said he is too far into his academic program to transfer even with years of eligibility remaining. Titans’ coach Molenaar, who completed his 11th year on the Oshkosh coaching staff, six as a head coach and five as an assistant, was announced as the head coach of Albion College in Michigan on Feb. 1. Molenaar said other schools contacted him, but he wanted to make sure he would be a good fit for his new job. According to him, he knew Albion was an ideal landing spot for him. “It’s similar to what I tell recruits,” Molenaar said. “You know when you are somewhere if that’s a fit, and I had that feeling.” Molenaar said he is excited to work with his new players beginning on March 1 and for the support of the men’s soccer program, which is in the process of getting a new stadium. “There are some really exciting pieces about the program,” Molenaar said. “There’s definitely a lot of support from the college, as well as the athletics in general and for sure towards men’s soccer and that program.” While he said he is excited for his new opportunity, Molenaar described the situation as “bittersweet.” “I can’t describe it any other way,” Molenaar said. “I’m beyond excited to start [at Albion], but at the same time, I am also still deeply saddened by how this all materialized.” Molenaar said he is still upset with UWO’s decision to eliminate the men’s soccer program. “The 32 years of history of that program and what it all brings with, to me, it’s not something I can comprehend that the leaders here at the University were willing to toss that aside when solutions were presented to them,” Molenaar said. All five players who transferred or plan to transfer said they would remain at Oshkosh if the men’s soccer program was not eliminated. Rys said his time with the program was valuable. “It’s a hell of an experience because I got a connection with the guys that I wouldn’t have had otherwise if I wasn’t on the team,” Rys said. “I loved every second of it.” Simon said he appreciated his time at Oshkosh and wants to have a similar experience at his next stop. “The experience was something I will never forget, and I hope I can recreate it at Loras, but I’m holding it to a high standard because my time in Oshkosh was so great,” Simon said.