Repeat Champ Soldiers Finish D4 Shutout

November 5, 2016

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

COMSTOCK PARK – There is always a question posed to a team that has just won consecutive championships – a question that is sometimes not that easy to answer.

Is it harder to win that first title, or harder to defend?

The boys soccer team from Burton Genesee Christian let its results do the answering, as it made a historic run through this year's MHSAA Division 4 Tournament.

The Soldiers capped off their second straight championship run with a 3-0 win over Muskegon Catholic Central on Saturday at Comstock Park High School.

It was the Genesee Christian’s 16th shutout of the season, and incredible seventh shutout in seven games during the tournament.

With Saturday's goal total, the Soldiers outscored their opponents 27-0 during the great run.

And leading the defensive way for Genesee Christian was senior goalie Zach Noecker, who did nothing to hurt his 0.63 goals-against average heading into Saturday's title game. He had seven saves against the Crusaders.

"This is amazing," Noecker said. "I have a great defense ahead of me, starting with (senior defender Tyler Rose). They are all phenomenal, and we are all best friends. Our goal for this postseason was to go for the shutout, because you can't lose if you don't get scored on."

A confident keeper and defense like that has made the Soldiers offense able to gamble and push a little harder, and they did just that Saturday, especially early.

In the game's first 16 minutes, Genesee Christian put two goals on the board.

The first, at the 31:58 mark, came on a beautiful corner kick by senior midfielder Cole Russell – a corner kick that found the back of the net.

The second, at 24:14, also came on a corner kick, but this one was fielded by Rose, then passed to senior forward Caleb DuPree, who headed the ball past Crusaders goalie Connor O'Neill.

DuPree scored again with just over three minutes to play in the first half on a spectacular unassisted goal.

"My coach always makes fun of me for not playing defense," DuPree said. "For the past two seasons our defense has been remarkable. They make it easy for us forwards, knowing we just have to be at the right place and time our moments. They do all the dirty work."

Great problems to have, a stingy defense and goalie, and a dynamic offense. And all this coming from a school with 114 total enrollment and 23 on the soccer team.

"This is a testament to these guys' work ethic," Genesee Christian coach Doug Anderson said. "(Assistant coach Chris Rainear) and I have a system we are trying to run, and these guys buy into it. And I'm telling you, it really works. When you get a group of guys, 23 of them, that sell out and say they will do anything to win a state championship, then you have a good chance to win."

Anderson said one of things he worried about early in the year was complacency after winning the program, and school's, first MHSAA championship in 2015.

"This was a tough one," Anderson said. "You want to get the guys motivated at the beginning of the year, and at the start of the year we had a philosophy of 'Win from Within.' And I told the guys if you want to win again, it will have to come from within yourself. And luckily I have a senior class that didn't need to be prodded too much."

Muskegon Catholic Central coach Bill Moulatsiotis said his team's lack of experience in a game of this magnitude finally caught up with the Crusaders.

"I think our inexperience showed today," Moulatsiotis said. "The gravity of the game, and the implications of what this might mean for the boys, was a lot. We tried to keep it as normal as possible, but obviously Genesee has been here before, and they knew what to do."

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Burton Genesee Christian players rush to get a hand on the Division 4 championship trophy. (Middle) Soldiers forward Caleb DuPree gets a foot on the ball with MCC’s Robert Ahern defending.

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.)