Performance: FHN's Jonathan Kliewer

September 28, 2018

Jonathan Kliewer
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior – Soccer

The junior goalkeeper had eight saves – a number of them “brilliant” according to a Grand Rapids Press report – to lead the Division 2 top-ranked Huskies to a 1-0 win over No. 2 Grand Rapids Christian on Sept. 17, earning Kliewer the Michigan Army National Guard Performance of the Week. The win also avenged last season’s Regional Semifinal loss to the Eagles, while providing a confidence boost as Forest Hills Northern pursues its first MHSAA championship in boys soccer.

The Huskies are 13-0-1 with 11 shutouts this season, and Kliewer has nine of those shutouts in goal while playing in the field for the other two. Heading into Thursday’s 2-2 tie against Grand Rapids Northview, he’d saved 93.8 percent of shots he’d faced in goal this season with a 0.27 goals-against average; FHN has outscored its opponents by a combined 57-5. Kliewer was the varsity backup as a freshman and then split starts last fall with Carter Clark. The keepers agreed early last season that whoever had better statistics would receive the team’s all-state push, and Carter ended up with a slight edge and all-state honorable mention – although FHN coach Daniel Siminski said both keepers performed at that elite level. They were set to split starts again this fall, at least during the regular season, but Clark was injured in August and Kliewer has taken over fulltime.

After playing in a summer tournament in Spain, Kliewer received an invitation to join the academy for the German Bundesliga’s Werder Bremen, but he elected to return to the U.S. and finish high school. He’s grown nearly six inches since freshman year and is pushing 6-foot-4, and more soccer opportunities surely are on the way. He also carries a 3.8-4.0 weighted grade-point average and is interested in studying chemical engineering or business after high school. Those decisions will be made later; in the meantime, he's hoping to help FHN to a historic finish. 

Coach Daniel Siminski said: “Jon is a very tall and athletic goalie. He is a vocal leader out of the backfield that owns the box even in heavy traffic. This year, he has improved exponentially by also showing up in fantastic shape, which has helped with agility and range. He has shed the baby pudge and now looks like a chiseled statue back there. Overall, he does not have a lot of holes in his game, and he has been a fantastic last line of defense when things break down defensively. Between his stellar play, and the great play of our defense, we’ve only given up three goals on the season.”

Performance Point: “What I think was probably the best part was how the team came together,” Kliewer said of the Grand Rapids Christian win. “It was obviously a close game, and we knew that Grand Rapids Christian was really good. But we knew that we were better, and we came out and performed super well. … I was pretty pumped up because they kicked us out of Regionals last year. A lot of people probably don’t think playing them midseason is a big deal, but I think it was a big deal for our team, just to prove to ourselves that we can win state championships this year if we put our hearts into it. I think it’s going to really matter if we play them in Regionals this year; we can reflect back on that win and say we beat them that time, so we can beat them again.”

Last line of defense: “It’s been tough, but also a challenge that I really want to step up (and meet). It’s a lot of fun playing for the team, but when it comes to games there’s a lot of pressure to perform well. I deal well with that pressure, but I also need to work to get better. It’s a challenge I like.”

Prepared to play: “I came in (this fall) and I really wanted the starting position. I thought to myself, I don’t want to give Coach any reason to tell me I’m not good enough – so I’m going to get in shape, do everything as good or better than the field players running-wise and getting in shape. And then I also did some special training over the summer with a goalkeeper coach out in Detroit, just to get back into the routine of playing goalie.”

Standing tall: “I grew a lot since my freshman year, over my sophomore year, and just getting used to my new body. Getting up off the ground is a lot harder. It’s a lot more distance to cover. But (being taller) also helps in the air because I can come out and grab a lot of stuff faster, and I’m taller so I can come out and punch the ball, stuff like that.”

Trophy time: “(Winning the Division 2 title) would just mean the world to me right now. We’ve really bonded with the seniors, and they really want to win it. Coach really wants to win it – he’s gotten super close multiple times. We really have a good team this year, and that’s pretty much all we’ve been talking about. It would just mean a lot to us, honestly, as a whole team.”

- 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

September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern's Jonathan Kliewer dives to make a stop. (Middle) Kliewer goes high as opposing strikers converge on the net. (Photos courtesy of the Forest Hills Northern soccer program.)

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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.)