Performance: Mattawan's Casey Kirkbride

November 4, 2016

Casey Kirkbride
Mattawan senior – Soccer

Kirkbride watched Mattawan’s run to the Division 2 Semifinals last season from the sideline – as a junior on the junior varsity, and one of two goalkeepers on that team at that. But the 6-foot-1 senior has made himself into a player capable of helping the Wildcats take another step this fall, and his four MHSAA tournament shutouts including last week’s over No. 8 Holland earned Kirkbride the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Mattawan entered the postseason ranked No. 11 in Division 2, and this week also shut out top-ranked East Lansing 2-0 to reach an MHSAA championship game for the first time in this sport.

After he and his team surrendered own goals three times during the first four games this fall, Kirkbride has gone on to notch 13 shutouts over the team’s last 22 games with a season goals-against average of 0.68 and 0.88 save percentage. He made nine saves Wednesday against the Trojans and has the Wildcats at 21-4-2 after they graduated 11 players including six all-staters off the team that finished 23-3-1 a year ago.

Kirkbride also played subvarsity basketball during his first two years of high school and should be in the running for academic all-state in soccer with a 3.73 grade-point average. He’s strongest in math and the sciences and is considering studying engineering in college, perhaps at Western Michigan University. But first, his team plays Dearborn Divine Child at 3 p.m. Saturday at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek for the Division 2 title.

Coach Kirt Brown said: “He played JV for me last year and showed determination. He’s just got a great attitude. I talked to him (Wednesday) night; he was the first kid I went after when they were all hugging each other, and (I asked) if he would have thought at the beginning of the year he would shut out the number one team in the state semifinals. He’s been dynamite; he’s got a good defense in front of him, but he’s made some great saves as well. He’s long and rangy, and he’s got that never quit attitude. He’s kinda measured, and he’s learned and he’s grown as the year has gone on. He knows how important he is to our team, but he’d be the first to say ‘I have a really good defense in front of me.’”

Performance Point: “I’m just really thankful to have a good defensive line that limits the chances opponents have,” Kirkbride said. “They haven’t had too many clear opportunities where I’ve had to come up with saves, and I’m thankful for that. I try to keep (my defenders) organized, but they did a good job of being focused and really just staying strong on their marks; I try to help on that too. The one (save) that sticks out (from last week) is when the ball hit the post … I was in mid dive and it just went past my fingers and came back and hit off my face, and then it goes off for a corner. I was just thankful it didn’t bounce off my nose or a different part (and into the net).”

New team, all team: “I think (our success) comes down to being more of a team on the field because when we have chances to go forward we make the most out of them and we don’t give the ball up as much. We’re just on the same page more defensively and offensively. Having that sense of knowing teammates know what you want, because when you have the ball, they know how you want them to play. And we don’t have selfish players; for the most part, all of us are selfless and the goal is for the team.”

On the move after Marshall: “Beating Marshall in the Regional Semis, it’s pretty close to greatness. We were outsized – they had some really big kids, and we never really had to face too much of that before. Seeing how we could handle it, we just played through it. We ended up conceding a goal right after halftime, but we didn’t drop our heads at all. Determination is really what that is. Our personnel, I’ve seen a lot of great things from these players, so I know we’re capable of it.”

JV as a junior: “It was tough last year because I was goalie part of the time, and another guy was goalie part of the time, and sometimes we didn’t know until the day of the game who would play, or that one would play one half and one would play the other. I kinda didn’t want to play goalie, but I definitely would not question if Coach wanted me. … I wasn’t so confident in myself (this season), but seeing (my teammates) were, that meant something to me. That’s how (important) being on a team of friends is. (I learned on JV) how important it is to make connections with your teammates. At the beginning of (last) season I didn’t have too much connection to my other teammates, but as the season progressed it got better.”

Quick thinking: “Playing goalie, you need to know decision making. Know the pros and cons without even thinking, that definitely comes into effect. If I have a decision in my mind, I’ll do it.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan 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. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Mattawan keeper Casey Kirkbride (middle) gathers a loose ball against Stevensville Lakeshore earlier this season. (Middle) Kirkbride snags a shot against Lakeshore, which was ranked No. 16 in Division 2 at the time. (Photos by Steve Taylor@TSS Photography)

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 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.)