By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – Kerry Geocaris and Melissa Cruz-Cuene have turned their soccer dreams into reality.
With the help of the two, beginning this spring, the Green Bay Glory will be the newest member of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
The WPSL is an independent national league whose main focus is to develop highly competitive amateur women’s soccer teams. With over 110 teams nationally and in Canada, most of the rosters consist of elite-level college players or ones who have recently graduated.
Teams will play 10-14 games during the course of a season.
“It’s a very exciting thing coming to Green Bay,” said Geocaris, who along with Cruz-Cuene are co-owners of the team. “There have been players anywhere from 14 to 50 years old in the league, but the majority are in that 18-24 range.”
Geocaris suffered a compound fracture when she was 17 during a game and had 12 screws and a plate put in her ankle her junior year. She worked her way back and was recruited to play at Marquette University before another injury robbed her of the game she loved.
“The first day at our tryout practice at Marquette, I blew out my knee with a meniscus tear,” Geocaris said. “From that point, I never went back – I got burned out with all the injuries. I was a typical lost athlete.”
Geocaris noted that she always challenges her business clients to nurture their passions, so many began asking how she was going to challenge herself – that’s what led to her trying out for the Torrent, a WPSL team in Milwaukee, 20 years after graduating high school.
“I hired a trainer and got in good shape,” she said. “My whole intention was to try out and play the sport for the joy – I played well and made the team last spring. After the season, I came back up here for the summer and played for the United Hurricane’s Women’s Premier team – I was amazed at the talent in the area.”
Frustrated that Milwaukee teams didn’t want to travel to Green Bay for games, Geocaris said it was time to go bigger. After seeing little to no advancement in opportunities for female soccer players after 20 years, she decided it was time to create some for young athletes, thus the process of starting the Glory began.
Like Geocaris, Cruz-Cuene played at Notre Dame when girls’ soccer was just a club sport.
“One of the many things on our list that we’d like to accomplish is to put a competitive team on the field,” said Cruz-Cuene. “As important, we want to mentor these girls and create a positive environment where they have the opportunity to become better people on and off the field.”
The Glory will be coached by Chad Johnson, a former player and coach in the area.
“I am very excited about this opportunity,” said Johnson, who led his Green Mountain High School boys’ soccer team to a Colorado High School State Championship in 1987. “The Glory will be a special program for this area.”
Johnson accepted an athletic scholarship to play collegiately at UW-Green Bay but played only three seasons after breaking his left leg his senior year.
He eventually became the women’s coach at UWGB, compiling a 27-25-4 record in his three seasons. The Phoenix finished the 1993 season 13-4-2, which is still recognized as the program’s best record while competing in the NCAA.
From there, Johnson became the head coach for the St. Norbert College men’s team for four years and women’s coach at the college for three years.
“When I asked people who the ideal coach would be, Chad’s name always came back to me,” Geocaris said. “I wanted someone positive and empowering. I’m kind of going by a leap of faith a little bit because I haven’t even seen him coach; but to come recommended by so many people, he’s our guy. I like that he’s had a lot of experience coaching females and has a daughter (McKenzie) playing.”
One area player on the roster will be Anna Boyd, a 2017 De Pere High School graduate now playing at UW-Whitewater.
“I’m very excited to get the opportunity to keep working on my skills with the Glory,” said Boyd, who was the Fox River Classic Conference Offensive Player of the Year during her junior and senior seasons. “Having my friends and family be able to see me play is also exciting. Playing with all of these great athletes will be so much fun. I’ve played against them in the past, now we will be teammates.”
The Glory’s schedule and place of play are still up in the air, but you can follow the team on Facebook at Green Bay Glory WPSL or visit the team’s website, www.greenbayglory.com, for updates.