When Kerry Geocaris heard through the grapevine that the Milwaukee Torrent was fielding a women’s team, her interest was piqued. The women’s team will take to the field at Hart Park, June 10, 2018 for their home opener where they will be competing at the highest level of soccer for women in the state of Wisconsin. Deciding to try out for the team was a gutsy move for this 38-year-old who had been forced to give up a college soccer career because of injury.
Geocaris began playing soccer at the age of four. She played competitively with boys’ teams in the Green Bay area, where she grew up and now lives, until she was a sophomore in high school. As a high school junior she was at the top of her game and being recruited by several colleges.
A devastating injury led to twelve screws and a plate in her ankle. Still, she was invited to try out for the Marquette University team as a walk on. Geocaris’s dreams were crushed for good when she tore her meniscus during the tryouts and was cut from the team.
The Torrent is Geocaris’s chance to “rewrite the story.” It was no small decision to try out, but the decision making came silently. She didn’t tell her husband, her kids, or her friends.
“I didn’t have room for any naysayers,” said Geocaris.
When she finally told her husband that she had tried out and made the team, his eyes filled with tears of pride, she said.
Geocaris trains with a team of people. This includes yoga at 5:30 AM, soccer training at 6:30 AM and home at 7:30 AM to get her kids ready for school. With her training, she had been looking for an opportunity “to put her legs to work.” The rumor about the team seemed serendipitous.
As a young girl, Geocaris grew up admiring professional soccer player Mia Hamm. Hamm became a household name after leading the American team that won the Women’s World Cup in 1999. Now a mother, Geocaris understands the power of strong role models. When the teacher of her nine-year-old daughter, Teya, heard about Geocaris’s quest, she gave Teya a book about Hamm as a gift.
Both of her kids, Teya and 12-year-old Elliot, are excited about their Mom “going after her dream,” Geocaris said. “For Teya especially, who is growing up playing a male-dominated sport, it is really exciting.” She embraces serving as a role model for other girls too. Already she has little girls sending her positive messages on Instagram.
It is this mission, to inspire young girls, that led Andy Davi to found the Milwaukee Torrent women’s team. ”I want to give the kids something to look up to,” Davi said.
Though beginning as an amateur team in the Women’s Premier Soccer league, Davi has set a goal of fielding a professional women’s team by 2020. His current team has sixteen women on the roster, most of whom are playing college soccer during the school year. A few more women may yet be added to the roster. They are scheduled to play at least sixteen games with other Midwestern teams this summer.
The team will be coached by Mark Litton who will continue serving as the assistant coach for the men’s team. Davi, the head coach of the men’s team, will serve as the assistant coach for the women’s team. The two have decades of both coaching and playing experience.
Davi began playing at the young age of 3 for Bayer-Leverkusen, a prestigious soccer club in Leverkusen, Germany where he grew up. When injuries curtailed his competitive career at the age of 25, he began coaching and recruiting. He also earned a degree in sports management.
He has been living in Wisconsin since 2009 and during that time has coached several youth teams with the Bavarian Soccer Club for over three years and the Dominican High School soccer team for two years.
Litton, on the other hand, did not begin playing soccer until age 15. Raised in Racine, Litton attended the University of Wisconsin – Parkside where he became an All-American goalkeeper for their team. He went on to play as a reserve goalkeeper for the Milwaukee Wave for four years.
Litton has 15 years of college coaching experience in addition to ten years of coaching with the Wave. Currently living in the Milwaukee area, he works as a corporate recruiter but soccer remains a big part of his life. In addition to the Torrent, he coaches an indoor team in St. Louis and is a part of the coaching staff with the US national futsal team. (Futsal, an offshoot of soccer, is played with five-person teams on an indoor hard court with a smaller ball.)
Litton echoes Davi’s sentiments about the need for a women’s team in this area. After the collegiate level, women have nowhere to go to compete. “I want it to be the start of something great for Tosa as well as southeastern Wisconsin,” Litton said.
When Davi recruited Aubrey Kahn last fall, she recognized the opportunity it presented. Far fewer opportunities exist for women than men to play soccer after college, she said.
“I would probably have to go overseas if I wanted to continue playing,” Kahn added. She hopes to gain more knowledge of the game, make some new friends and determine if her future holds more competitive soccer.
Having grown up in Waukesha, Kahn attended Waukesha North High School, a school not known for its athletics, Kahn said. Yet she thrived and went on to earn a scholarship to play at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. “Just because you’re not put in the best position doesn’t mean you can’t succeed with hard work and drive.” Kahn is scheduled to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology with hopes of continuing her education in physical therapy in the future.
Like Kerry Geocaris, Aubrey Kahn emulated Mia Hamm while growing up. “She was the face of the U.S. team,” Kahn said. “She was the best of the best.” If Davi achieves his goals, local girls just might emulate Kahn and Geocaris too.
When Kahn, Geocaris and at least fourteen other women take to the field in May, they will be cheered on by more than admiring young girls. “The Flood,” a grassroots group of soccer aficionados will be there too.
This group began as a couple of guys from around the Milwaukee metro area who were involved in efforts to bring a professional soccer team to Milwaukee and quickly “engaged with Davi” when they heard of his efforts to build a men’s team from the ground up. The group organized, created their own moniker, began holding meetings and partnered with CannedWater4Kids, a local charitable organization that helps kids across the globe gain access to clean water.
Their biggest mission, though, is to create spirit at Torrent games. This includes chanting, banners, drums and even vuvuzelas, plastic horns commonly used to create energy at soccer matches.
This cheering squad of soccer nuts is eager to embrace the Torrent women’s team, too. Many of them are parents, and welcomed the chance to expose their kids to a higher level of play with the men’s team. “When their daughters see young women playing, they will connect in another way,” says Derek Steiner, member of the Flood. “It promotes that there are opportunities out there for women.”
It was Mia Hamm who said: “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.”