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Club Soccer celebrates 25 years of sport

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The UW-Eau Claire men’s soccer club celebrated its 25th anniversary at the 18th annual alumni game by hosting a game in which current and past players dueled Sunday at the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center.

“The game is more for the alumni than for the team, but it was a fun game for both,” senior David Webb said.

The current Eau Claire club team won the game 3-1.

“It was a close competitive game where good sportsmanship and camaraderie were displayed,” said alumni game coordinator and former player Martin Hendricks.

Webb said many of the past players have done a lot to help with the program.

“It was nice to have all of those guys come back,” Webb said.

Sophomore Kellen Fish agreed and said it was a good chance to learn more about past club teams.

“It was neat to hear some of the former players talk about the history of the program,” Fish said.

After the game, both present and past team members gathered to honor Karl Andresen, the club’s first coach. Andresen helped establish the club and is a pioneer for soccer in the Eau Claire community. Andresen coached the team from 1978-1991 and led the team to three national club tournaments.

Hendricks said Andresen was largely responsible for the popularity of the sport in the community today. When Andresen came to town in 1956, he brought his love for the game with him to an area where the sport was basically an unknown commodity, Hendricks said.

“The club team was basically started in 1978 when I was a political science professor at the time and two students approached me with the idea,” Andresen said.

He took the role of adviser, got club status for the team and the Eau Claire men’s club soccer team was born.

“We played 189 games between 1978 and 1991 and I never missed any of them,” Andresen said.

Hendricks said Andresen helped push some of his players to continue playing soccer after college.

“Karl inspired many of his players to get involved with the game of soccer after they were done playing through his passion for the game,” Hendricks said. One of those players, George Oien, is now head boy’s and girl’s soccer coach at Eau Claire Memorial High School.

“Karl is the main influence in my coaching today,” Oien said. “He tries to put together some of his methods of motivating players and putting together teams.”

Oien is also the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Andresen said he was touched to be honored after the game.

“I can remember when we started out, we had no official field to play on in Eau Claire, and we would schedule games wherever we could find space,” Andresen said.

He said he was very happy to see the development of Bollinger Field and the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center for soccer use.

“(It’s) a tremendous resource for soccer players and the community as a whole,” he said.

This year’s team is continuing the winning tradition left by Andresen, who still attends games and is very impressed with the current Eau Claire club team as well as the Blugold women’s soccer team. He also is happy with the direction the programs are headed.

Before Sunday’s alumni game, the men’s club team beat Duluth (Minn.) 2-1.

“As a team we are playing very well right now, even though we have had some key guys injured,” senior Sam Larsen said.

Even though the injuries have hurt the team, Webb said some of the freshmen really came out and played well.

“It is good to see some of the young guys step up with the injuries, and the defense has been playing excellent,” Webb said.

“Hopefully we can get some key guys back and get a chance to go to nationals,” Larsen said.

Eau Claire has two home games this weekend. The team hosts Mankato (Minn.) at 2 p.m. Saturday and St. Cloud (Minn.) at 10 a.m. Sunday. Both games will be held at Bollinger Field.

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