Fast starts across the board in Milwaukee

Don’t look now, but the Milwaukee Panthers are on the rise.  In recent years, women’s soccer and volleyball have taken some lumps in the early goings from national contenders and then turned those experiences into conference championships.

Kerri Schuh has led the team to a 5-1 start in 2011

Volleyball under Susie Johnson went through a sort of transition period after she took over from Kathy Litzau, who became Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator for the program back in 2007.  Johnson’s teams experienced somewhat of a dip, if you could call it that, but still have maintained the streak of winning a conference regular season or tournament championship since 1997.

That remarkable run could include both titles this season, as the Panthers are off to a 5-1 start that is their best since Johnson’s first fall at the helm in 2007.  A loss to Arizona State, the host school of the ASU Sheraton Classic, is the only blemish on the beginning of the schedule which has seen them topple several contenders and win the Sheraton West Des Moines Drake Invitational.

Senior Kerri Schuh has been the stalwart leader of the Panthers offense, dropping nearly 100 kills in only six matches and scoring nearly five points per set.  In Milwaukee’s five victories, only one (vs. Denver) went the distance.  While they haven’t swept anyone yet, it’s only a matter of time before some unlucky school falls victim.  Here’s to hoping Marquette gets blanked on Saturday at the Klotsche Center.

Men’s soccer, entering their second season under Chris Whalley, suffered a disappointing 4-1 loss in the opener at home against IPFW in a game that was littered with yellow cards, never allowing the Panthers to establish a pace of play that benefits their talent.

Through two matches, the Panthers have three goals, and the encouraging part of that is that two of the three have been scored by freshmen Laurie Bell and Gerardo Saavedra.

Women’s soccer, of course, has become the gold standard of fall, the season where Milwaukee seems to run roughshod over the nation in nearly every sport.  By the time I could find time to update the website, Sarah Hagen had already boosted her school, conference and state All-Time leading goals mark to 73 – she’s scored six goals in the Panthers’ 5-0 start.

Kevin Conway of Milwaukee Athletics interviewed the soccer team about their blistering start, which they hope to continue today against Minnesota in the Twin Cities:

One thing is for sure.  Like Gonzaga and Butler in men’s basketball, the women’s soccer program here at Milwaukee has taken on a philosophy of play anyone, anywhere, any time.  As I’ve said, the Panthers have taken their lumps in the past, but it’s paying off in spades now – Sarah Hagen was ranked the #7 player in America according to TopDrawerSoccer.com and the Panthers have entered the rankings at No. 22/20 this past week.

Through 13 games and matches, the Panthers have combined to go 11-2 in all sports.  It looks like the Horizon League is gonna have a lot on its hands this season.

Videos and picture for this post credit to Milwaukee Athletics Sports Information Department.

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