Wayzata girls soccer coach ponders his future
When the history of Minnesota high school girls soccer is written, there will be a huge chapter chronicling the career of Wayzata coach Tony Peszneker.
In 23 seasons at WHS, he has won an unprecedented seven state titles, including back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012. Woodbury has four state titles, Jefferson has three and no other school has more than two.
Even though he loves coaching at WHS, there are times when Peszneker thinks about retirement.
“I have nothing left to prove,” he said in an interview last week. “The job requires a lot of energy and commitment … at some point it’s going to end.”
Peszneker is now in Arizona, relaxing after another state title run. He and his wife will take a look into the future, and Peszneker’s coaching will be part of that discussion.
“I have enjoyed coaching the high school team every year,” said Peszneker, whose career record stands at 396-58-42 with 20 state tournament appearances. “During the high school season, you have the players’ undivided attention. It is so much fun to work with dedicated kids.”
The back-to-back championships of the last two seasons are a source of great pride for everyone in the program, Peszneker noted.
“We won the state title in 1996 with a 22-0 record,” he said. “And then in 1997, we outscored our opponents 107-2. But we lost in a shootout in the state semifinals and took third place with a 23-1 record.”
This year’s team wasn’t flawless with a 17-2-2 mark, but when the chips were down in the Section 6AA and state tournaments, the Trojans were at their best.
Midway through the season, the Trojans were not ranked in the state’s top 10, even as the defending state champs.
“We always say that rankings are like a beauty contest,” Peszneker noted. “But the girls did feel slighted, and they used it as motivation.”
In the Section 6AA tournament, the Trojans pounded three opponents by a 24-2 margin. State results were similar as the Trojans beat St. Michael-Albertville 6-0 in the first round, Blaine 4-1 in the semifinals and White Bear Lake 2-0 in the title match.
“The girls made history,” said Peszneker. “One thing that is different about this team is that we have never had four All-State players before.”
Those All-Staters, all seniors, are forward Kylie Schwarz, midfielder Kiana Nickel, defender Katie Schulz and goalkeeper Mara Dougherty.
“Never in my 23 years, have we had such a solid core group,” said Peszneker.
Schwarz, who finished the 2012 season with 28 goals, played on three state championship teams and a state runner-up in four varsity seasons. She recently won her fourth consecutive All-State award.
“Kylie doesn’t play other sports,” said Peszneker. “She lives and breathes soccer year-round.”
Peszneker has known most of the Wayzata players since they started in youth soccer.
“Almost all of them were ball girls at the varsity games when they were younger,” he said. “Many of the girls on this year’s team played for me in the Wayzata Soccer Club as U13s and U14s.
“Ten of the girls played on the [Wayzata Premier] U17 team last summer.”
Peszneker plans to play some golf when he’s down in Arizona, and the golf course is a great place to relax.
“No one person is bigger than a program,” he said in reflection. “I know I’m not the only coach Wayzata will ever have.”
In assessing his future, Peszneker said, “Some people are waiting to see what I will do. As of now, retirement isn’t a yes, and it isn’t a no.”
The lure of winning his 400th game is there, but for someone who has already won seven state championships that milestone is a little bit less significant. When Peszneker does finally hang up the whistle, the things he will miss most are the daily interaction with players and the chance he has to help shape their lives.