Performance: Country Day's Jon Dougherty

November 7, 2018

Jon Dougherty
Detroit Country Day senior - Soccer

The Yellowjackets’ senior goalkeeper set an MHSAA Finals record with 19 saves in helping Country Day to a 1-0 win over top-ranked and formerly undefeated Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in Saturday’s Division 2 Final at Comstock Park. His work including four saves in overtime and another in the deciding shootout earned Dougherty the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Dougherty split time in goal as a sophomore and junior before taking over as the primary keeper this fall. Country Day coach Steven Bossert called his keeper the state’s best after Saturday’s game, and the numbers this fall say plenty as well: a 0.61 goals-against average, .900 save percentage and 12 shutouts with a 17-4-2 record this fall and 28-7-5 record with 23 shutouts over his three varsity seasons. But the numbers do not tell the whole story. Country Day moved from Division 3 to Division 2 this season, and also had to replace a back line that included first and second-team all-staters and two more all-District defenders who help the team to last season’s Semifinals. The Yellowjackets ended this fall 20-5-2.

Dougherty made the difference one more time Saturday against a Forest Hills Northern team that excelled at sending long free kicks into the box to a group of big-bodied attackers capable of redirecting them into the net. Country Day made the decision to have Dougherty snag as many of these lofty passes out of the air as possible, and the 6-foot-3 standout shined. Then, in the shootout, after Country Day’s first attempt was saved, Dougherty followed with a save – keeping the shootout at 0-0 and amping up the pressure. The Yellowjackets went on to prevail in the shootout 4-2. Dougherty was named Wednesday to the Division 2 all-state first team by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association and also is a pitcher on Country Day’s baseball team. He is considering opportunities to stay on the diamond after high school at either Macalester College in Minnesota or Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He carries an unweighted 3.93 grade-point average and intends to study dentistry.

Coach Steven Bossert said: “In competition, I don't think that I've ever seen him drop a ball that he meant to catch. He does not bobble balls or give up rebounds. His technique is solid, and this athleticism and reactions are truly special. When you combine these special athletic talents with an exceptional mind, you get a goalkeeper that erases many defensive mistakes and keeps you in games when you may not be the better team.  … The luxury of having Jon behind our defenders is that it gave us a chance to learn and grow together without losing many games. And, the backs really came together in the playoffs and you saw the results, especially in the last two games when we played teams that were considered among the best in the entire state regardless of division. With Jon leading our defense, he helped the growth of the back line so that we were one of the best teams in the state. But the most obvious and greatest reason that we were able to beat the Forest Hills Northern team on Saturday was Jonathan Dougherty. He was the difference. … At times, I thought he was wearing a red cape with an "S" on the front of his blue goalkeeper's kit. Several times in the first half he made aerial saves and catches 8-10 feet in the air in lots of traffic. Only the best keeper in the state catches those balls, and no one holds onto them when you come crashing through players and then the ground. Jonathan did.”

Performance Point: “I’m really just proud of the way our defense played throughout the whole game," Dougherty said. "Looking back at it, they blocked a few really important shots. Our left back James Naaman, at the end of the game, we were watching it on film, they had a shot that would’ve been a screamer, probably into the top corner, that he used his face to get in front of and block. That was one of the things that stuck out, that play in particular, and of course the penalties (shootout), just the guys stepping up and taking care of business. … On the film, everything looks a little bit quicker. In the game, everything was kinda slowed down for me. I felt like I had a lot more time than I actually did. The decisions in-game were pretty instinctual. There was really no thinking; it was just I saw the ball in the air and I thought I could go get to it, so I went after it.”

Drive for 15: "Country Day has a really long historic tradition of being competitive in the division that we’re in. At the beginning of the season this year, we knew we were going to have a really talented group. That was the goal from the start of the season – it was always to win the state title. We didn’t just want to compete; we wanted to win."

Time to lead: “The whole first half of the season was really just a growing and learning experience for me, getting used to the guys in front of me, us getting used to each other. Just playing with each other, gaining experience in games. I had to take on more of a leadership role because last year I split time, I only got half the games. But this year I was a captain as well as the primary keeper. The first half of the year, it was kinda hit-and-miss, I’d say. As we started to put things together and figure out who our four main starters were going to be in the back line, we really started to click and mesh well. That’s when we started playing our best soccer. … I just tried to keep our guys motivated, positive, in the game at all times. In our state semi game, we gave up a goal really early to Cranbrook in the first two minutes, and I just kept telling the guys, ‘There’s a lot of soccer to be played. Keep your heads in the game. Do not lose it.’ You saw the result (a 2-1 overtime win): They clearly were staying in the game and just playing through whatever got thrown at us. … At the beginning of the year I thought it was going to be a huge responsibility, working with the young back line. But the guys really stepped up, and they made my job easy.”

Crossover: “The positions I play in both sports are really similar. I’m a pitcher in baseball. You have to have the same mentality, because one mistake on your part could cause your team the game in either sport. It’s definitely a mental toughness … a level-headedness almost because you can’t ever get too happy about things and you can’t get too upset about things. Because there’s a game in front of you, you have to be able to bounce back and be mentally tough.”

Setting up for the shootout: “Over my soccer career I’ve been in three. We had one my sophomore year, against Farmington (Hills) Harrison in the District semis (a 1-0 win). We weren’t really that competitive that year. I was the shootout keeper, and it was a good experience to get familiar with the shootout process and to gain confidence. Our junior year we lost a heartbreaker in PKs to Flint Powers in the state semis. I think that was just invaluable for us as a team and for me. To experience that kind of loss and know what it felt like and be able to come back and do it again this year with the same confidence, it was big for us – and that kind of experience was big for me too.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

November 1: Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day keeper Jon Dougherty dives to his right to stop a shot during Saturday's Division 2 Final against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. (Middle) Dougherty unloads a kick downfield during his team's win. 

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 16, 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Alpena boys and girls soccer opponents took their long bus rides to play the Wildcats expecting an easy win, and most likely by securing the victory by the eight-goal differential rule, commonly known as the “mercy rule.”

Worse yet, the Wildcats also had to take those trips across the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, as well as northern and southern journeys of two hours, dreading thoughts of experiencing yet another shortened game.

Those expectations started to change in 2011, when Tim Storch, arguably the most decorated coach in the history of Michigan high school soccer, took the reins of the Wildcats’ boys and girls programs.  

Storch made the move after retiring from Troy Athens as a teacher and coach of the Redhawks’ boys and girls soccer teams.

Slowly but surely, Alpena’s mercy losses disappeared – and wins over their Big North Conference opponents became reality. Under Storch, the Wildcats went from the cellar to challenging for titles.

But now, Storch is showing some mercy on the Big North – perhaps an early Christmas present. The conference schools won’t see him on sidelines any longer. He’s retiring – again.   

Storch is doing so after leading the Wildcats to wins over all conference opponents except Traverse City West. The Wildcats did get a tie this fall against the Titans, one of the BNC schools that regularly makes a deep postseason run, as Alpena stayed in the league title race most of the season.

“When I came to Alpena it was about trying to make the program relevant in the school, the community, the area, the BNC and northern Michigan,” Storch recalled. “We got to that point after some growing pains. 

“Early on we took our lumps, and we were mercied by everybody,” he continued. “By the end we were competitive with everybody.”

Storch, who started the Athens soccer programs from scratch in 1981, won eight Class A or Division 1 Finals titles with the Redhawks. He’s near the top of the lists of the winningest boys and girls soccer coaches in the state. The last of his 1,109 wins was a 3-1 victory over Bay City Western during this fall’s postseason.  

The Wildcats also beat conference opponent Cadillac in their District opener. They finished 14-6-3 on the season.   

Storch will be dearly missed in Northern Michigan, veteran Petoskey boys and girls coach Zach Jonker pointed out. Jonker’s Northmen picked up a victory over Alpena in the Division 2 District Final – also Storch’s last game. 

"Tim has had a legendary career as one of the most influential figures in Michigan high school soccer over the past 40 years while having an enormous impact on thousands of student-athletes,” Jonker said. “Over the past decade, Tim helped to dramatically raise the overall level of play in the Big North. 

Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. “He is one of fiercest competitors I have ever coached against, but he is also one of the most genuine and empathetic coaches I have ever encountered,” Jonker continued. “I feel fortunate to have been able to build a competitive relationship with him and call him a friend."

Storch’s last game with the Alpena girls also was a District Final, a 3-0 loss May 31 to West.

Storch is proud of what the Wildcats accomplished, noting logistics — unlike in southeastern Michigan — were a big challenge.

“We were an island,” Storch said. “We were big school in the middle of nowhere. 

“We couldn’t get together and have any kind of summer program with other communities because they didn’t have soccer, and if they had soccer they were at a Class D or C level that was way beneath what we were playing in the Big North.”

Storch’s tenure, which included six years serving as the Wildcats’ athletic director while coaching, drew accolades from his coaches and athletic directors. In addition to Jonker, Gaylord AD Christian Wilson, and West boys head coach and girls assistant coach Matt Griesinger gave high praise.

They are among those who will miss the successful coach.

“Tim leaves Alpena in better shape than when he arrived, and that is the true mark of a great coach and administrator,” Wilson said. “He has been an outstanding representative of Alpena High School, both as a soccer coach and as an athletic director. 

“Tim brought a level of stability and expertise and was well-thought of by players, coaches, and community members.”

Griesinger, who has led the Titans to considerable postseason success and upheld BNC dominance since taking over the West program eight seasons ago, was particularly impressed with Storch’s energy and passion for his players evident in every match.

“Tim is one of the most respected coaches in the state, and what he has done for the soccer communities in both Troy and Alpena is not just commendable, but also something that every high school coach should hope to emulate,” Griesinger stated. “Storch is a stand-up guy, and all of us other coaches in the BNC should consider ourselves lucky that our journeys in the sport overlapped.”

Storch is leaving Michigan high school sports as they face a shortage of referees and qualified coaches. He’s not certain of the exact reasons for it, but he points to time constraints and pressures faced on and off the field.

And, he knows the days of a teacher starting a career, coaching sports and sticking with it are long gone.

“My wife has always said I was a dinosaur,” Storch said with a chuckle. “Back in my day, even if you had family and kids, you still made time for coaching. 

“Coaching was part of my fiber — it kind of defined me.”

Storch is quick to point out “soccer coach” was just one of three hats he wore, along with history teacher and friend.

“I’m Mr. Storch to my students,” he recalls telling his student-athletes at Athens. “I’m Coach to my kids, and I am Tim to my friends.

“They are three different hats; I learned how to wear them and how to balance them.”

Storch looks back to all the friendships he’s made around the game of soccer – with former players, fellow coaches, and referees – with excitement for the future.  

He is also keeping in mind former players, referees and coaches who have passed on.

“It is kind of humbling when I think back all the years (to) coaches, referees and players I have interacted with,” he said. “We’re all here for a finite time. 

“We need to make the most of it and hopefully leave the place a better place when we leave.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Recently-retired Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch, left, talks things over with one of his players. (Middle) Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. (Photos courtesy of Therese Shaw.)