Performance: Portage Central's Minh Le

October 2, 2017

Minh Le
Portage Central senior – Soccer

A three-year varsity player, Le scored Central’s first two goals in an eventual 3-1 win over rival Portage Northern on Sept. 19 to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week” for Sept. 18-24. Portage Central hadn’t beaten Northern since 2014, and the win helped the Mustangs move up two spots to No. 2 in last week’s Division 1 state coaches rankings. After Saturday’s loss to Grand Haven, Portage Central is 12-2-3 and ranked No. 4.

Le is part of an experienced group coming off an 11-6-4 finish in 2016, and the Mustangs this season also have downed reigning Division 1 champion and current No. 8 East Kentwood. Le is focusing on soccer this school year but previously also ran cross country and track and played basketball. He’s also active in the hallways; he’s serving his fourth year as a student council representative and also served as treasurer as a junior.

Carrying a 3.7 grade-point average, Le intends next year to continue playing soccer while studying biochemical engineering at Hope College. But there’s still plenty to accomplish in high school, starting with helping to power Portage Central as it pursues its first MHSAA boys soccer championship. The Mustangs could see Northern again in a Division 1 District Semifinal. 

Coach Andrew Rice said: “Minh has a great first touch on the ball, and he hardly loses the ball off his first touch. This allows him to make positive decisions with the ball at his feet. His work rate is second to none; he doesn't have to be told twice on what needs to be improved. When we are at our best as a team is when individuals like Minh bring their commitment to success through dedication and their work ethics. We talk in the program about being humble and staying the course. Being ranked as high as we are for the first time in program history is obviously an accomplishment. But at the end of the day we know it is just a number, and someone has to be there. Minh is one of the seniors that leads by example each day what it means to stay humble and continue working towards the end goal, which is bringing the first state championship to Portage Central.

Performance Point: “It was all about teamwork. I’m super glad we got over the hump,” Le said of Central finally downing the rival Huskies. “It was hard work. We were struggling a lot last year about it. We couldn’t figure anything out. So we focused on the following year, which was this year, and working together as a better team, and bringing a better mindset to the game and being smarter on the ball. … We take advantage of the field. Ours is one of the widest in the state, so we usually play wide and we took advantage of that (against Northern) because a lot of teams can’t. It was all about good looks, I guess.”

Rise to the top: “We just have to work harder at this point. The season’s almost over. Everyone’s mentally and physically tired. We just have to work through it and get the job done. … I’ve been training a lot more (by) myself, actually. In the offseason, I’ve been working harder than usual, looking forward to this year, my senior year.”

Problem solver: “Other classes, sometimes, I don’t do well in. But chemistry and all the math stuff, I’m pretty excellent at. And I get more interested every year I learn. I just have a different mindset to school, and I love equations and making things different and figuring out a solution.”

Voice of the people: “I love being a part of the student body and getting involved in a lot of stuff. For me, (student council) helped me connect with more of my peers that way and helps them get a voice (in) the school. I was always interested; I didn’t really take a chance (to join) in elementary school, (but in) middle school when they gave me a chance and I joined, I loved it.”

Revving with Ronaldo: “(Cristiano) Ronaldo is one of my best heroes. Growing up I watched him. Before every game I watch a video of him scoring goals and doing different skills. I still do to this day. It gets me more motivated, gets me more hyped up.”

Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 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. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Portage Central's Minh Le works to keep possession of the ball. (Middle) Le heads the ball during his team's win over East Kentwood. (Top photo by Evelyn Greathouse; middle photo by Jim Cottrell.) 

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.)