After 25 years, high school soccer in Nebraska is old enough to honor its best of the past.
Atop any such list would be Kelly Lindsey and Molly Thomas from girls soccer and Joe Wieland from boys soccer — the honorary captains of the 25-Year Nebraska XI Soccer Teams.
The trio were the leading vote-getters in a yearlong project of longtime high school soccer coaches.
“I am satisfied that the results are fair representation of high school soccer over the last 25 years,” said Joe Rauth of Omaha, the project leader.
Lindsey and Thomas were explosive players for Millard North. Lindsey, who graduated in 1997, went on to play college soccer at Notre Dame and then was a pro player. Thomas, who graduated in 2008, was a four-year starter at Nebraska.
They head a girls first team that has players from six schools. The forwards are Kalan Malone of Omaha Duchesne (1993), Ashley Carter of Omaha Marian (2003), Mayme Conroy of Omaha Skutt (2011) and Thomas.
The midfielders are Kim Engelbert of Duchesne (1993), Meghan Anderson of Omaha Burke (1998), Carly Peetz of Lincoln Pius X (2005) and Lindsey.
The defenders are from Marian: Ellen Gerweck (2001) and current Texas A&M player Jackie Tondl (2012). Heather Taggart of Millard North (1988) is the first-team goalkeeper.
Wieland was an All-Nebraska midfielder as a senior at Omaha Creighton Prep in 1999. He became a four-year starter at Creighton, helping the Bluejays reach the national final four twice and playing for the title as a sophomore.
Eight schools placed players on the boys first team. At forward are Tony Zito of Millard North (1996), Keith Sawarynski of Ralston (1998), Chris Hamburger of Lincoln Southeast (2002) and A.J. Dingledine of Lincoln East (2007).
Midfielders are Chris Brunt of Millard South (1998), Nick Bohnenkamp of Millard South (2003), Alex Henery of Omaha Burke (2006) and Wieland.
Both defenders are from Millard North: Mike Wadleigh (1998) and Kyle Deremer (2007). Luke Denney of Omaha Central (1997) is the first-team goalkeeper.
Among those on the second team are Jason Kreis of Omaha Burke and Becky Hornbacher of Ralston.
Kreis made all-state as a freshman in 1988, but then his family moved to Louisiana. He became the leading scorer in Major League Soccer history, a distinction he held for three years, and now is the head coach of Real Salt Lake in the MLS.
Hornbacher pushed Taggart for the first-team position among goalkeepers.
There are 34 players on the three teams for both boys and girls. In the voting, there were unbreakable ties for second-team spots, and those units include a 12th player.
Rauth is a girls assistant coach at Millard North who has been on the high school coaching scene for nearly 40 years. He said the selection criteria depended heavily on high school performance. Club soccer achievements were not considered.
Other factors included college and pro performance, academic achievement and “no significant criminal activity.”
Several meetings of coaches were held to gather and discuss player nominations. A list of finalists was compiled for the panel to consider in its voting. First-team votes were worth three points, second-team two and third-team one.
No one was a unanimous first-team choice in the voting.
In supplying their résumés, many of the nominated players answered questions about their high school soccer experience.
Thomas said, “A lot of people actually don't like high school soccer and they can't wait to get back to their club teams, but I always was the complete opposite. I couldn't wait for high school season to come, and when it did, it was the best time of the year.”
“The atmosphere of high school soccer is a million times better than club soccer,” she continued. “It's the excitement that comes with it, with districts and state and playing your rival from across town, maybe even more than once.”
Rauth said he sought not to let “these great players over the last 25 years fall into distant memory. It was important to recognize their amazing performances.”
“Everyone will not always agree with the results of the ballots,” he said, “but the more important thing is this will generate talk and discussion about these great players, and others will be remembered and mentioned in this discussion. And the public at large will be reminded that high school soccer is here to stay and is one of the premier sports offered in high school today.”
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25-Year Nebraska XI Soccer First Teams
At Millard North: Two-time All-Nebraska.
Since then: Played two seasons at Florida Southern. Lives in Omaha.
At Ralston: All-Nebraska as a senior. Scored 97 goals in his career.
Since then: Played four years at Creighton, starting every match as a senior captain. CU was national runner-up when he was a junior. Director of product development for a company in suburban Denver.
At Lincoln Southeast: Two-time All-Nebraska. Tallied 39 goals and 19 assists in his career. Knights were state champions in his junior year.
Since then: Four-year starter at Drake. Works for the U.S. Postal Service and assists the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club in St. Louis.
At Lincoln East: Two-time All-Nebraska. Finished with 42 goals and 20 assists in his career.
Since then: Played one year at Northeastern Oklahoma and two years at Hastings College, tallying 22 goals and nine assists as a Bronco. Hastings was the 2010 NAIA national champion. Works in suburban Denver as a youth mental health professional.
At Millard South: All-Nebraska as a senior.
Since then: Four-year starter at Missouri State had 20 career goals, including eight match-winners. Three-time All-Missouri Valley. Played pro soccer, including two seasons with Kansas City of the MLS. Directs the Evolution Soccer Club in Omaha.
At Omaha Creighton Prep: All-Nebraska as a senior.
Since then: Four-year starter at Creighton. Played on two teams that made the College Cup final four, including the 2000 national runner-up. Has a law degree from NU.
At Millard South: Two-time All-Nebraska.
Since then: Played four years at Western Illinois, finishing among the Leathernecks' top-20 career scorers with 12 goals and 21 assists. Lives in Omaha.
At Omaha Burke: Two-time All-Nebraska. Tallied 58 goals and 23 assists, despite missing almost all of his sophomore season while hurt.
Since then: An All-America kicker at Nebraska, he is the Huskers' career scoring leader with 397 points. Kicks for the Philadelphia Eagles.
At Millard North: All-Nebraska as a senior.
Since then: Started four years at Nebraska Wesleyan. Teaches and coaches at Overland High School in suburban Denver.
At Millard North: All-Nebraska as a senior.
Since then: Started one year at St. Mary's (Calif.) and three at Creighton. Played pro soccer in 2011 in New Zealand. Working toward his MBA at CU.
At Omaha Central: Two-time All-Nebraska.
Since then: After one season at NU as a walk-on receiver in football, he played three seasons of soccer at Rockhurst. Was all-region as a senior. Has a 4-1 record as an amateur in MMA. Lives in the Kansas City area and works as a fitness trainer and consultant.
At Omaha Duchesne: Two-time All-Nebraska. Scored 158 career goals. Duchesne was state champion all four of her years.
Since then: Four-year starter at Creighton, scoring 34 goals. Lives in suburban Des Moines.
At Omaha Marian: Three-time All-Nebraska. Recorded 70 goals and 32 assists as Marian was state champion all four years.
Since then: Played one year at Nebraska (six goals) and three at Bellevue (23 goals). Works for Adams, Inc. in Omaha as a project manager and executive recruiter.
At Millard North: Three-time All-Nebraska. Played on state champion teams as a sophomore and senior.
Since then: Four-year starter at NU, tallying 17 goals and 17 assists. Working in Lincoln.
At Omaha Skutt: Three-time All-Nebraska. Tallied 83 goals and 37 assists as Skutt was Class B champ each of her final three seasons.
Since then: Playing at Nebraska.
At Omaha Duchesne: Two-time All-Nebraska.
Since then: Four-year starter at Marquette, team captain as a senior. Lives in Raymond, Neb.
At Millard North: Was the first four-time All-Nebraska player. Tallied a Class A-record 99 goals and 32 assists while playing on two state champion teams. World-Herald girls athlete of the year as a junior.
Since then: Four-year starter at Notre Dame. Played on the U.S. under-20 national team and played three years of pro soccer. Was a starter for the Bay Area CyberRays, WUSA champions. Enshrined in Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. Coached college (St. Mary's of California) and pro soccer. Now a physical therapist in Chicago.
At Omaha Burke: Two-time All-Nebraska. Parade All-American as a senior. U.S. junior national team member.
Since then: Four-year starter at NU. Was the 29th player to have 40 goals and 40 assists in a career (48, 50). Two-time U.S. junior national team member. Named to the Big 12 all-decade team. Academic coordinator at Missouri.
At Lincoln Pius X: Two-time All-Nebraska captain. Thunderbolts were 2-2 in Class B finals in her career.
Since then: Four-year starter at NU. Member of U.S. under-23 team. Played four years of pro soccer. Working toward a master's degree in elementary education at NU.
At Omaha Marian: Three-time All-Nebraska. Marian was state champion each of her four years.
Since then: Played four years at Saint Louis. CPA in Omaha.
At Omaha Marian: Three-time All-Nebraska. Played on state champion teams as a sophomore and senior.
Since then: Started last fall at Texas A&M as a freshman.
At Millard North: All-Nebraska captain in 1988.
Since then: At Wisconsin, she started 76 of the Badgers' 78 matches. Career GAA was .484. Wisconsin was NCAA runners-up her senior year. Enshrined in Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. Chairwoman of the OB-GYN department at Midlands Hospital.