Dreams came true for at least one Northern Michigan soccer mom when the spring season got underway.
It 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.”
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.”
“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.”
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 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.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Soccer Overtime - Listen
Soccer games in the postseason have one big noticeable difference from the regular season. In the postseason, games cannot end in a tie – so games go to overtime and possibly a shootout.
Here’s how that works:
If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it will go to overtime, which is two 10-minute periods played in its entirety. There is no sudden death or golden goal winner. If there is a winner at the end of the 20 minutes, that team wins and advances to the next round. If there’s still a tie, we move to a shootout.
In the shootout, the teams alternate taking five penalty kicks. If it’s still tied after five kicks, they each kick until the tie is broken.
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