Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

THS soccer coach gets acquainted

June 11, 2003

When soccer player Nick Volk asked incoming coach Luke Denney about having to endure two-a-day practices when the season begins, Denney had an interesting reply.

"We'll have as many as we can have," Denney said.

The upcoming school year will begin about the same time soccer starts at Tonganoxie High.

Denney won't see his team on the soccer fields for another two months, but he met with players and parents May 28 to introduce himself and field questions.

The former Rockhurst goalie and Nebraska defensive back said he was fortunate to be in Tonganoxie.

"Coming here was a blessing to say the least," said Denney, who also will student-teach English at THS this fall.

Denney discussed with parents and players his progression through athletics and how sports needed to be kept in check.

"I've played with the best of the best," Denney said, reeling off names of former Huskers such as Eric Crouch, Scott Frost and Ahman Green.

The 1996 Nebraska soccer player of the year also was a football standout at Omaha Central.

After a year on the national championship squad in 1997, Denney headed to Rockhurst and played soccer. After that, he tried his shot at professional soccer, competing against about 600 other hopefuls.

"You learn real quick there's more to life than athletics," Denney said.

Take a look at his family's resumes and it seems athletics rank near oxygen, food and sleep in their lives.

His father, Mike, completed his 24th season as Nebraska-Omaha's soccer coach, while sister, Mikki was an all-state soccer selection herself. She now is an assistant coach at Missouri, but also played NCAA Division I soccer at North Carolina and Minnesota. For the Tar Heels, she helped UNC to two national championships. After transferring to Minnesota, the Golden Gophers won two Big 10 Conference titles.

Finally, Denney's older brother, Rocky, also played for Rockhurst in the 1990s.

As for Luke, he had the distinction of playing in two sports at the collegiate level.

In a state where football is supreme, high school boys soccer is played in the spring. Only four other states use that format.

That left Denney in a recruiting crunch waiting for soccer scholarships in the spring while a Nebraska football offer waited in the wings.

"It's hard to turn down Osborne over the phone," Denney said about a call from the former Husker coach. "You can't say no to Tom."

Denney joined the Nebraska squad, earned a national championship ring and then transferred to Rockhurst in Kansas City, Mo., to pursue soccer. Denney learned from another legendary coach when he played under Tony Tocco, Rockhurst's coach for the past 30 years.

Now with a team of his own, Denney is eager to build the Chieftain program. The first-year coach wants to create camps and build a larger soccer base.

And, of course, as he mentioned in his first meeting, Denney wants to motivate a group he will direct on the field come September.

"I'll be in your ear a little bit," he said.

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