Dave Lange is an accomplished sports writer who began with the Suburban Journals and the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat and retired recently as an executive at Anheuser-Busch. His passion is covering the game of soccer. He penned a lengthy piece honoring St. Joseph Academy's coach Maureen McVey who became the first female to be inducted into the prestigious St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame. With permission, here is the report by Dave Lange on his blog, Soccer Made in St. Louis.
Look for Dave Lange's new soccer book: Soccer Made in St. Louis, published by Reedy Press. To find this book, go to this website.
After 41 years and 841 inductees, the times have caught up with the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame.
The local soccer shrine, which started in 1971 and has been adding members annually every since, is welcoming its first female member: St. Joseph’s Academy coach Maureen McVey.
Although at first it might seem sexist, rules for induction have kept the organization a men’s club until now. Candidates must not only be outstanding in the sport and have a St. Louis connection, but they must be at least 50 years old.
With modern women’s soccer barely 30 years old, that means female candidates had to wait — until now.
McVey is one of many local women to have achieved great things in soccer. Jan and Joan Gettemeyer, three-time All-Americans in the early 1980s, and Ruth Harker, who was selected for the first U.S. Women’s National Team in 1985, come to mind from the early days of women’s soccer in St. Louis. McVey played with all three at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. But McVey is the first to have reached age 50.
Joining McVey in the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame’s class of 2012 are 10 others, all men: Scott Bettlach, John Casey, Tony Glavin, Gary Guarino, Jim Niehoff, Lou Pessoni, Bruce Rudroff, Rick Stockmann, Matt Weiss and Steve Westbrook.
“It’s a great honor,” McVey said. “There are a lot of great women’s soccer players from here. I know I’m not getting in as a soccer player. I’m getting in as a coach.”
McVey is the second-winningest girls’ high school soccer coach in the St. Louis area. She reached the 500-win plateau in May when St. Joe’s topped Incarnate Word in overtime of the Missouri Class 3 quarterfinals.
McVey-coached teams have a 501-119-41 record. Her teams have won four state titles. Her 2002 team at St. Joe went 26-0-1 and was the mythical U.S. champion, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of American rankings at the end of the season.
What others think
Oakville coach Dave Robben has a special perspective on McVey. The winningest girls’ high school coach in the St. Louis area, Robben has been coaching high school girls’ soccer since 1979. He remembers McVey as a player, had a daughter play for McVey, and has coached against McVey numerous times.
“She’s kind of humble about being a player,” Robben said. “To this day, her fierceness and tenacity on the field are remembered and discussed. As a coach, she sets high standards and motivates her players. They play with swagger and confidence. She instills a love, passion and respect for the game. Their teams are always competitive and always fair. I can’t remember any of our games with them that were chippy.”
Formula for Success, very simple
McVey explains her success simply: “I love what I do,” McVey said. “These kids always put you in a good mood.”
Kids have been putting McVey in a good mood since 1987, when she began her first high school coaching job. McVey teaches physical education full-time and was named St. Joe’s assistant athletic director in 2011.
The formative years
McVey was a late bloomer in soccer. She first became acquainted with the sport late in her teens. Her high school, Riverview Gardens, started girls’ soccer when the then-Maureen Lee was a senior. She already played tennis and volleyball, which took up fall and winter.
Soccer was a spring sport, and McVey had the time, the inclination and the athleticism to give soccer a try.
The team started the season without uniforms. The girls played in T-shirts, jeans and cutoffs until a seamstress came to their rescue with jerseys and shorts well into the season. Nevertheless, Riverview Gardens won the “unofficial” state title in a post-season tournament. McVey scored the only goal in the final against Pattonville. (Missouri began awarding girls’ state Championships in soccer in 1985.)
“I was a forward and I was very fast, but I didn’t have a whole lot of skill,” McVey said.
McVey transferred to UMSL after two years at Florissant Valley Community College, which did not have a women’s soccer team at the time, and became part of one of the nation’s early women’s college soccer powers.
She played during the first two seasons of varsity soccer at UMSL in 1981-82, also the first two seasons that national college championships were awarded for women’s soccer. The Riverwomen were fourth in the nation both seasons, and handed perennial powerhouse University of North Carolina its first-ever loss in 1982.
Enthusiasm carries the day
“I loved the sport, and once I got out of college, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” McVey said.
Armed with a teaching degree, McVey got her first chance to coach at Ursuline. She moved to Incarnate Word, and arrived at St. Joe’s in 1994. She declined offers to coach club soccer so she and her husband could raise their son, Pat, and daughter, Katie, and watch them play.
Pat played on a state soccer high school championship team at Chaminade and competed on the college level at Central Methodist. Katie is a field hockey player who will be a senior at St. Joe’s this fall.
As she watched her children grow, McVey’s coaching approach evolved, too.
“I’ve become more laid-back,” McVey said. “When I was younger, I was a nervous wreck back in 1998 and ’99 when we were trying to win back-to-back state championships. (St. Joe’s won in both years, as well as in 2001 and 2002.) Now I just keep everything on an even keel.”
There was no better example than in 2012. St. Joe’s lost four consecutive matches early in the season, including one to Oakville. Robben, though, knew St. Joe’s would be a force later in the season.
“A fellow coach contacted me for a scouting report on St. Joe, and I qualified my report by saying we caught them early,” Robben said. “Coach McVey had not found her team yet.”
Sure enough, St. Joe bounced back to roll all the way to the Class 3 semifinals, where the Angels lost 3-0 to Lee’s Summit.
“The kids were so upset when they lost in the semifinals that they didn’t want to play the third-place game,” McVey said. “I told them that they hadn’t been ranked all season and weren’t even supposed to be there; just relish the moment, turn those frowns upside down, win the third-place game and go home a winner.”
And so they did, beating Springfield Glendale 3-1 for McVey’s 501st career victory.
McVey already looks forward to the 2013 season and the daily walk from the locker room at St. Joe’s up a hill to the practice field.
“I always said that the day I don’t enjoy walking up that hill is the day I quit,” McVey said. “But I love walking up there every day. I really enjoy coaching.”