Watseka, Milford merge for soccer

Watseka High School’s Matthew Henieke moves the ball as Kankakee High School’s Dandy Medina defends during a 2018 game. The Warriors announced this week they will be forming a soccer co-op with Milford.

The Sangamon Valley Conference will be adding more soccer talent this upcoming season.

Earlier this week, Watseka Athletic Director Barry Bauer announced the Warriors will be partnering with Milford High School on a two-year soccer co-op agreement that will last until at least the 2021-22 season, a collaboration that will both boost participation numbers in the Warriors’ program and also offer Milford students the chance to play soccer.

“The last few years, our soccer numbers haven’t been that strong, and Milford doesn’t have a soccer program,” Bauer said. “It was kind of an idea that if we could add some players from Milford, it would add stability of our program, and then, at the same time, give an opportunity to some kids who wouldn’t have had an opportunity to play soccer in high school.”

Although Bauer is unsure how receptive Milford athletes will be to this new opportunity due to COVID-19 striking the country, he does hope to be able to continue the partnership for years to come if everything works out smoothly.

“With COVID-19 ending school the way it did, we haven’t gotten a chance with a lot of Milford athletes to see how many will be pursuing this,” Bauer said. “It’s a little unknown right now how many (Milford students) we’re going to get, but we’re going to give it a try.”

Soccer coach Jeremy Douglas also is excited for the boost in numbers the move will presumably provide.

Traditionally, Watseka has put out a co-ed team — boys and girls — every fall to compete during the boys soccer season. And for the past couple seasons, they have seen a dip in participation, which has typically resulted in about 15 to 17 student-athletes going out for the team.

“I guess in our better days, numbers wise we were averaging around 25 kids,” Douglas said. “But the last couple years, for whatever reason — I’m not sure if it’s lack of interest or other obligations that these students-athletes have, but our numbers have just not been where we wanted them to be.”

Along with the new partnership, the Warriors home field will be seeing a change of scenery.

Fresh off a new agreement with Watseka Park District, the Warriors soccer team will be having its home field moved to the park district’s soccer fields located at 1200 E Grant St., Watseka, next to the Iroquois County Administrative Center.

The move will allow Watseka to ditch their old home field on the grounds at the Unit 8 District Office.

“It’s something that I know the school has been looking at for a couple years to find a new home for our soccer team,” Douglas said of the new home. “This field will be a little bit smaller than the old one, but it’s centrally located so it will be easier for students to get back and forth from the high school to the field.”

Bauer said he believes moving fields will ultimately benefit the Warriors soccer program in the long run due to the park district having an abundance of equipment and training tools due to all the solid youth soccer programs that already partake there each year.

“I think it was just something due to the size of our town and district having a good youth soccer program,” Bauer said. “So we just thought be good to team up and partner with them.”

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