Soccer Dream Coming True for Suttons Bay's U'Ren Sisters, Coach Dad

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 21, 2023

Dreams came true for at least one Northern Michigan soccer mom when the spring season got underway.

Northern Lower PeninsulaIt was really more of a plan. But it’s quickly becoming more a nightmare for some of Suttons Bay’s opponents.

The dream part belongs to Sarah U’Ren, who gets to watch her daughters, senior Dani and freshman Megan, play on the same high school pitch. The sisters are wreaking havoc on their opponents already.

Both U’Ren girls are already on the scoreboard this young season. Dani, a center back, has one goal. Megan, who plays center mid and striker for the Norse, has five goals despite sitting out a game due to injury.

The plan component may belong pretty much to their coach Randy U’Ren. He took over the girls program just before the 2020 season lost to COVID-19 in anticipation of coaching his daughters. He returned to coaching high school after successful six-year run at the helm of the Suttons Bay boys program. Under U’Ren, the Norsemen played deep into the postseason regularly, reaching MHSAA Semifinals twice.

The Suttons Bay boys team compiled a 102-29-12 record with U’Ren coaching. When he stepped down after the 2011 season ended with a loss in the Regional, U’Ren began dreaming of a potential day his girls played soccer together at Suttons Bay and he was the coach.

“Ever since both girls started playing and enjoying soccer around 5 years old, we thought how fun it would be for them to have one season together on the same team,” the coach recalled. “As my girls kept playing, I stepped down from the boys to coach their youth and travel teams.

“But they were too far apart in age to be on the same team,” he continued. “And when the girls job opens up, I knew it was the perfect time for me to step in.”

U’Ren notes it really wasn’t a plan though.

“It was still a distant vision of coaching them both at the same time, and now that is here, I am so happy it all worked out,” he continued. “I feel so fortunate that one of the things they love and are excelling at is the same thing I have loved as a player, fan and coach.”

Dani and Megan U’Ren defend against Kingsley and Moira Martz (8).The sisters are thrilled to have their father as a coach and pleased to be playing together. Over the years, they say, their dad has brought out the best in them.

“I have had my dad as a coach for many years, and I think he has pushed me at home and at practice to be the best athlete I can be and to go above and beyond what most players do,” said Dani. “He has always been my favorite coach, and I had been waiting to play with my sister on the same team.

“Having my dad coach these past few years was very fun for me, but I am so excited to be able to have my last year with my sister playing too,” Dani continued. “The best part is having my sister to hang out with and play against; she always pushes me to be better.”

This season was in sight for quite some time for Megan, the high-scoring freshman. She’s planning to make the best of the only year she’ll have this situation.

“We have been thinking about this one season for a very long time, and I love playing on the same team with my sister because I can look up to her as a leader on the team and in my life,” Megan said. “The best part for me is that it’s super fun listening, and learning, to all of the strategy at home, practices, and games.”

Dani agreed.

“We have the same ideas about the game, we can bounce ideas off of each other and if he is explaining something new I usually get it right away,” she said.

Coach U’Ren’s belief the team will benefit from having sisters playing together stems from what he saw in his playing and previous coaching experience. Brothers and sisters tend to have each others’ backs, including back when his younger brother Ryan played with him at Alma.

This year’s Norse teams have another pair of sisters, Sophia and Clarice Bardenhagen.

“The sibling bond has always been strong,” the veteran coach pointed out. “A lot of times they just know what the other will do before anyone else — I've seen that same thing with every set of siblings I've coached.”

andy U’Ren organizes his team during a game this spring.U’Ren admitted he tends to be harder on his own girls and reminds himself regularly to switch back to “Dad” mode from time to time.

“Coaching your own girls is a fun challenge,” he said. “I try to treat them like I do all the other girls.

“I often have to remind myself to coach them as if they weren't my girls,” he continued. “The other thing is to really try to switch back to ‘Dad’ mode after practices and games.”

U’Ren has hopes of returning Suttons Bay to prominence in league and postseason play. The Norse have won few postseason games since the coaching days of Ryan Defoe and Leland starting its own girls program. Leland had been in a co-op with Suttons Bay.

Today, Suttons Bay has a co-op with Northport and Leelanau St. Mary’s that has been in place since 2015.

The Norseman are preparing to take on Buckley this evening and have high hopes of evening their record at 3-3-1.

“As with any season, we want to improve each week,” Coach U’Ren said. “If we do that, the results start to speak for themselves.”

The U’Ren sisters believes the team enjoys playing with them and for their dad.

“The team loves it,” said Dani. “They always tease us and sometimes get our names mixed, but they love it.”

Megan summed it up.

“The team thinks it’s really cool,” she said.

Coach U’Ren, though, is trying to keep a perspective that goes beyond soccer and winning.  

“I will always cherish just being able to spend more time with Dani and Megan,” he said. “Kids are so busy, and time just flies.

“Having these couple extra hours together each day is priceless.”

Tom SpencerTom 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) Dani (15) and Megan (10) U’Ren have grown up in Suttons Bay soccer and now play for their father, coach Randy U’Ren. (Middle) Dani and Megan U’Ren defend against Kingsley and Moira Martz (8). (Below) Randy U’Ren organizes his team during a game this spring. (Photos by Ron Kramer; except family photo courtesy of the U’Ren family.)

Performance of the Week: Trenton's Chloe Wishart

April 11, 2024

Chloe Wishart headshotChloe Wishart ♦ Trenton
Junior ♦ Soccer

Trenton is off to a 3-0 start this spring, and Wishart is playing a leading role. She scored four goals in a 6-0 opening win over Gibraltar Carlson, then two more in a 3-0 victory over Riverview that was a rematch of a Division 2 District Final from a year ago. She added another pair of goals in Monday’s 4-0 win over Allen Park. Wishart also had three assists through the team’s first three games.

After earning a Division 2 all-state honorable mention as a freshman, Wishart missed most of last spring with a knee injury and played only a few games at the end as the Trojans finished 15-3-2 and reached the Regional Finals. She’s providing a major boost back at full strength and with a bit of a positional switch into more of a scoring spot as she previously played near the back of the midfield. Trenton improved to 4-0 with a 3-0 win Wednesday over Brownstown Woodhaven and was ranked No. 4 in Division 2 in this season’s first coaches association state rankings posted this week.

@mhsaasports ⚽️POW: Chloe Wishart #soccer #trenton #letsgo #goal #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports ⚽️POW: Chloe Wishart #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #tangled #chickfila #beyonce #vampirediaries #nighttime #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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Past 2023-24 Honorees

March 28: Jenna Maki, Ishpeming basketball - Report
March 22:
Jaremiah Palmer, Niles Brandywine basketball - Report
March 15:
Leah Hodge, North Farmington gymnastics - Report
March 8:
Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)