Roennecke Rallies Roeper to D4 Title

November 1, 2014

By Ron Rop
Special for Second Half

KENTWOOD – Simon Roennecke long will be remembered for the individual effort he turned in Saturday in the MHSAA Division 4 boys soccer championship game.

The high-scoring sophomore scored all four goals as he led Birmingham Roeper to a 4-2 victory over Grand Rapids Covenant Christian on a sunny, cool afternoon at Crestwood Middle School.

Roennecke’s four-goal game not only gave Roeper its first-ever MHSAA Finals title in any sport, but sent Covenant Christian home with its third straight runner-up finish in Division 4.

“I never could have dreamt this,” Roennecke said. “My touch was on today, and I felt it throughout the first few minutes of the game. I had one chance in the first half when I took on a few defenders, and after that I felt I could do that the rest of the game.”

“He’s a competitor; he’s a gamer,” Roughriders coach Ed Sack said of Roennecke. “He’s come up all year for us, as a sophomore, it’s incredible, and to score four in the state final … come on, please. He’s just a wonderful human being and soccer player.”

Roennecke got loose from the pressure of three Chargers defenders and fired a low, 20-yard shot that found the net just inside the goalpost.

However, the Chargers came right back and within seven minutes produced the equalizer. Junior Colin Riemersma knocked down a loose ball, was able to elude Roughriders goalkeeper Calvin Lind and tuck a shot into the open net.

Both teams had other scoring chances during a wide-open first half, but neither could break the 1-all deadlock after 40 minutes of play.

Covenant made some noise in the offensive end in the early minutes of the second half, but came away empty-handed.

Then Roennecke struck a second time. Again, he was able to beat a defender, get into range for a shot and fire a well-placed, low shot inside the far post. That gave the Roughriders a 2-1 lead.

“He’s just an opportunist,” Sack said. “He’s got guts and he’s a competitor.

“I think what a lot of people didn’t recognize is that the Oakland County leading goal scorer, Max Whipple, was playing defense the second half.”

Roennecke completed his hat trick with 11:41 left in the second half when he broke in on the left side and fired a shot that, again, snuck just inside the far post.

Minutes later, the score became 4-1 on another low shot from the left side.

“He played a good game today,” Chargers coach Mike Noorman said. “He was a hard guy to cover.”

Covenant Christian was able to cut the deficit to two goals with 5:32 remaining when senior Jared Minderhoud unleashed a hard shot that Lind could not handle cleanly. The rebound ended up on the foot of Riemersma, and he wasted no time hitting the back of the net.

From there, the Roughriders were able to keep the Chargers’ offense at bay and wrap up the title.

“It’s amazing. I mean, this is the first state championship we’ve ever had,” Roennecke said. “To win it takes a lot of hard work.”

While Roennecke was putting on a show up front, it was the stellar play of senior Michael Matthews in the back that kept the Chargers at bay for much of the afternoon.

“He is our third-best attacker, and the only game we lost was 7-6 in double overtime the third game of the season because I was selfish and had him an attacking mid,” Sack said. “I realized if you score six goals you can still lose a game unless you have a strong defense. He’s the anchor … he’s the rock back there.”

For the Chargers, it was a disappointing finish to another strong season.

Covenant Christian finished the season 21-4-2 and was undefeated in the River Valley Conference, which sent a team to the MHSAA Finals for the ninth straight season and 16th time in the last 17 years.

“I wanted so badly for these guys to be the champion of the year, but the goal that we had at the beginning of the year was to win a different crown, to play as hard as we could to represent our school in the name of Christ,” Noorman said.

“They are a great team,” said Sack, whose team finished 23-1. “What a great league they must play in, but our two leagues must be the two best in the state for D4.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Roeper's Simon Roennecke works to get past a group of Grand Rapids Covenant Christian defenders Saturday. (Below) Roeper's Max Whipple battles the Chargers' Brock DeBoer for possession. (Click for all team and action photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)