Okemos best soccer players turn into MSU stars
EAST LANSING, Mich. – When the Michigan State women’s soccer team played Northwestern this season, Okemos soccer head coach Brian Guggemos brought his children to the game to show them something spectacular.
Kristelle Yewah and Sarah Kovan took the field at DeMartin Stadium for the Spartans, and Kourtney Scott for Northwestern, as Guggemos watched three of his former players take part in a Big Ten game.
There are four MSU soccer players that were Chiefs, playing under Guggemos. For four years, he coached for the Okemos girls’ varsity team, and moved last year to head coach of the boys’ team.
Yewah recently received her MSU varsity jacket for women’s soccer, but was once a four-year varsity player and senior captain for Guggemos.
“He was one of the better coaches I had. I like how he had the passion to win and I knew he cared for his players, which is what every coach needs so that the players will work hard for you,” said Yewah. “He also made it known to us that he’s a teacher, so obviously school is very important as well, but be ready for the game and learn how to balance the two, so I think that has helped me here, transitoning into college.”
Guggemos has players at Brown, Massachusetts, Duke, and Northwestern. The versatile coach says he feels fortunate to be the coach of these successful athletes, but gives a lot of credit to Okemos’ academics.
“When it comes to thinking about college, even for an athlete, the academics are by far their number one concern,” said Guggemos. “For that, I think that coming from a community like Okemos is very professional.”
In addition to academics, MSU redshirt freshman Lou Plascencia is thankful for the other opportunities from Okemos soccer. He credits a visit to a Michigan State soccer game in elementary school as the moment he started dreaming to play for MSU. When he received the offer letter his junior year, the Okemos soccer community, to which he referred to as his “family”, heavily supported him with their kind words.
“I think it was a combination of both on the field and off the field that helped me where I am now,” said Plascencia. “Like through high school, academics were structured well and helped me through time management between the two. On the field, the players that surrounded me, it was always like a family, our team, so I never really had trouble fitting in.”
It was that kind of community Yewah wanted as she considered college. The forward didn’t grow up as an MSU fan, but choose to stay in East Lansing because she wanted a support system like she had at Okemos High. Like in her junior year, a new system was implemented where busses would take students to away games free of charge.
“The busses really helped the community and everyone supporting each other,” said Yewah. “It was great because I like big crowds, I think I play better with big crowds. It’s easier and more fun to play with that community support.”
In some cases, this player “family” as Plascencia described it, was exactly that. Siblings Zach and Sarah Kovan are the other two Okemos graduates currently playing soccer at MSU. Since Zach is a freshman, Guggemos is using successful athlete’s familiarity to current students to use as inspiration for his current team.
“Watching them all do well, our kids are motivated by watching our players who have become successful and done very well, because a lot of these kids would still like to be able to do that, and so it’s certainly something we all follow,” said Guggemos. “I know it’s cool in terms of simply seeing kids be successful and getting to the highest level, and it’s cool for the kids on our team to say you can make from Okemos and make it to big schools and become a college student athlete.”
This soccer season is proof of Guggemos and his athletes’ success. Sarah will end her senior season with a possible Big Ten Tournament run, Zach will soon record his first appearance with MSU, Plascencia is planning on receiving his green varsity jacket next Fall, and when Yewah wasn’t busy dancing on Snapchat’s campus wide media, she was scoring her first goal as a Spartan on Sep. 25 against rival Michigan.
“I actually cannot describe it. I was on the ground and when I saw it finally go in I was celebrating,” said Yewah. “I was like, ‘At last!’ And I know everyone in my family was waiting for that too. My mom can’t normally come to games, so the fact that she was there too made it amazing.”
As far as Spartans coming out of Okemos’ soccer program, Guggemos is looking forward to the next player to transition into a green and white uniform and keeping the tradition alive.
“Like all these kids, they always enjoy playing in big games and I always knew I could get it out of them. I’m very proud of them, that they put in the time and effort to play at such a good school,” said Guggemos. “And it’s certainly convenient for us to go watch them play, that’s for sure.”