New executive director Tim Bennett wants to make Omaha Football Club the go-to club for soccer players in the area.
“The vision is we want to be a Top 20 club,” he said.
OFC held an open house this week for members to meet Bennett, who has been a college soccer coach for the past 18 years, most recently as the associate head coach for women at the University of Arizona. He replaces Shane Piper, who has moved on to other opportunities.
Bennett said the club wants to meet the goal of every player, whether playing recreationally or chasing a college scholarship.
The club, which has 3,200 players, has announced an agreement with the Sporting Kansas City of the MLS, which will lead to increased opportunities for its players as well as more education for coaches.
Bennett grew up in Omaha and was an all-state player at Omaha Westside.
“It's good to come home,” he said.
No thanks, Division I
Playing for a Division I program isn't always the goal.
Two volleyball players on the Omaha Wave 181s turned down those offers to stay closer to home this fall.
Elkhorn South outside hitter Brittany Cech opted for Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., in part because of its pre-medicine program. Lincoln Southeast outside and rightside hitter Kinsley TeKolste picked the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Three players from the Waves are going to Division I schools: Lincoln Pius X setter Ann Bachmann to Tennessee-Chattanooga, Pius middle hitter Kristy Wieser to UNO and Bellevue East middle and rightside hitter Taylor Burbage to Southern Illinois.
“This team has always been very successful, from the time they were 11 to 18,” coach Susan Kracl said. “Not only are they strong athletes, but they are great girls as well. Everyone on the team got a scholarship.”
Other team members: Logan Drueppel, Hastings College; Katie Kurtz, Wayne State; Morgan O'Malley, Morningside; and Sara Vitito, Missouri Western.
The Nebraska Juniors' McKenzie Fyfe, a senior setter at Grand Island, has committed to Wichita State.
“She got a lot better,” club coach Gwen Egbert said. “The ball comes fast out of her hands, she's really passionate about the sport and she works really hard.”
Elite teams impress
Program director Tony Carrow was thrilled with Nebraska Elite's showing in national volleyball competition.
“We were very excited that our teams' overall performance generated a winning record,” he said.
Two teams medaled: the under-18 Whammy team went 7-2 in the 20-and-under division at the Puerto Rico national championships, and the Melee team went 9-1 at the 15 national division at the USA championships.
Whammy's Jessica Bird and Sami Hansen and Melee's Callie Alberico and Halie McArdle were chosen for all-tournament teams.
Every player on the Whammy roster is headed to college, nine to Division I programs.
“It is truly an incredible accomplishment for our club,” Carrow said. “It's quite a special group.”
Whammy's roster and college destinations:
Jessica Bird (Bennington), Amanda Foje (Omaha Duchesne), Creighton; Maggie Heim (Omaha Marian), Ohio State; Meagan Kerns (Maple Valley-Anthon-Ono), Missouri-Kansas City; Michelle Thommi (Omaha Skutt), Capris Quaites (Omaha Westside), Drake; Jess Diederich (Omaha Skutt), Pacific; Sami Hansen (Bennington), Loyola-Chicago; Taylor Wickey (Concordia), Central Florida; Amelia Jensen (Omaha Westside), Hamline.
Lauren Brobst, a 6-1 middle hitter from Sioux City Heelan, is looking forward to playing a new position at Iowa this fall.
Brobst, who played this summer for Nebraska Impact's Shihai 181s, will move to outside hitter for the Hawkeyes.
“I'm excited for the change just because I've always played middle,” she said. “I get to change and learn a new position.”
Polk likes his youth talent
Marlon Polk has switched to coaching youth boys basketball after years with the Omaha Sparks, a high school girls team.
His daughter, Jazmine, who is now studying broadcast journalism at Kansas, played for the Sparks. Now Polk is helping to coach his son Maxwell, who is on the fifth-grade Team Nebraska Express squad.
He and head coach Latrell Wrightsell both have sons on the team.
Wrightsell, whose son shares his name, played for Creighton, and Polk said that although the players are still very young, competing in college is the goal of everyone on his new team.
“There's a long road within terms of development,” Polk said. “Some of them are dreaming of playing for some of our local colleges and dreaming of the NBA. That's our job: to cultivate and nurture that as we go through the years.”
The Team Nebraska Express fifth-graders just won the Mid-America Youth Basketball national championship, going 8-0 at the four-day event in Wichita, Kan. On the summer, the team was 38-4 and won four tournaments. It was the third straight year the group won MAYB nationals.
“Just tremendous talent,” Polk said. “We have some of the most talented kids in the Midwest."
Although his daughter opted not to play in college, several of Polk's former Sparks will be starting their second year of collegiate basketball this fall.
Brianna Craig is playing at Kansas State, Brianna Rollerson at Creighton, Koi Bradley at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Emily Gamble and Lexi Murphy at Northeast Community College.
Polk, a Douglas County district court judge, said he's found boys harder to coach. Girls like to play with their friends, he said, and be part of a team unit.
“The boys are a lot more individuals. You have to work harder to keep them from playing for themselves and get them to play for the team,” he said. “That's one of the keys to our success with our fifth-grade team. They play well with the team ball.”
Bison Red multi-dimensional
Some Bison Red boys basketball players have decisions to make that include college football.
Logan Power, from Lincoln Christian, averaged 8.1 points this summer for the Bison and has received a basketball offer from Pacific. He's also heard from Yale, Colorado Christian, Truman State and the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Power also plays quarterback for the Crusaders. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he has the size to play at an FBS or FCS school. Louisiana-Lafayette, Cornell, Iowa State, Wheaton College and South Dakota State have expressed interest.
Ralston's Zach Flott averaged 8.2 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds for the Bison. At 6-5 and 275 pounds, he has football offers from South Dakota and North Dakota.
Soccer could also be an option for Damien Austen of Kearney, the Bison point guard.
The Bison Red, who competed in five tournaments, finished 23-4, their best record since 2005 when they had future collegians Matt Hill, Mitch Albers and Drake Beranek.