By MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff
Ozaukee High School has a new soccer coach who knows the rules of the game and comes from a family passionate about the sport.
Eric Paulus, an assistant coach last season, has taken over the Warriors’ program. He is a 1998 graduate of Ozaukee High who played soccer until he switched to football in middle school.
Paulus has coached with the Waubedonia Soccer Club for six seasons and has been a soccer and football official since 1999.
He likes the fast-paced nature of the sport.
“It’s a sport that keeps moving. There are no timeouts. You have the halftime and that’s it,” he said.
Soccer doesn’t have as many set plays as football, where the action stops after each down.
“I like the flow of the game. It’s a sport that I believe you can’t go and say, ‘We’re going to run.’ There’s not a play coming in all the time. It’s all the flow,” he said.
Paulus also likes the mix of teamwork.
“It’s a team sport where all 11 (players) have to work together but a lot of it is individual, too,” he said.
Three of his four sisters played soccer, including Amy, who went to state with the Warriors from 2003 to 2006, winning three Division 3 championships under Eric Liebergen. Paulus’ three children, ages 22, 15 and 13, all play soccer.
Paulus was hired last fall as public works director for the Village of Fredonia.
He takes over a team that went 1-10-1 overall and 0-8 in the Big East Conference last season, but with the experience he has coming back combined with some young players, expectations are they will be much improved.
The Warriors lost one player to graduation and another to track and field after the girl played both sports last season. About 20 players are on the roster.
Among the top returning Warriors are sophomore forward Maddie Prom, a Big East second team selection last season who had nine goals and three assists, and junior Caitlyn Weyker, a center midfielder who had two goals, earned honorable mention last year and was named to the Big East second team in 2021.
Prom and her freshman sister Reese, along with junior Meredith Clark, are likely to handle most of the scoring this season.
Weyker moves from defense to midfield to be part of the attack this season. Senior Neely Kunz and her sister, sophomore Kamrin Kunz, join her.
“The Kunz sisters have made this team more dynamic and so much better,” Paulus said.
On defense, Paulus changed the philosophy from last season. Senior Evelynn Geis will play center back but won’t lead a flat four formation.
Paulus is doing a flat three and working into a diamond.
“We kind of called it where Evelynn plays a linebacker position. She sits behind the midfield but in front of the defense so it almost goes to a 3-1 or 2-4,” Paulus said.
Other defenders include sophomore Hannah Rechcygl and junior Kenna Pierson.
Junior Izzy Decker returns as keeper.
The roster includes four seniors, seven juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen. Two of the freshmen have played select soccer, but another, Chloe Dybul, will miss the season to a knee injury sustained in basketball.
“I think the future looks bright. I think we can compete in the Big East,” Paulus said.
Paulus’ strategy is to go on the attack and “really put pressure on the defense. I want them pushed back into their goal so they can’t push up on us. Push as many players down there as I can,” he said.
The Warriors’ schedule is more favorable this season. After playing only three of 13 games at home last season, eight of 17 are in Fredonia this year.
Paulus knows the team has to stay healthy. Last season, 15 players dwindled to nine by the time the playoffs started in June.
“Another challenge will be getting all the girls to the same playing and coaching mentality. The girls have varied experience levels and come from multiple recreation and select programs with different coaching and formation styles,” Paulus said.
The biggest hurdle is the Big East Conference, which Paulus said is “very tough.”
He said he expects three-time defending champion Cedar Grove-Belgium, Howards Grove and Oostburg to be title contenders.
“Our goal is to be that fourth team for the top spot,” he said.
Warriors start the season 1-1
Ozaukee lost at West Allis Hale, 4-0, on March 30, missing a third of the squad due to spring break.
They won at Cudahy/St. Francis on Monday, 6-0.
Neely Kunz had two goals, on one a header from a Maddie Prom corner kick. Prom had one unassisted goal and an assist.
Clark scored an unassisted goal and had a corner kick assist to Reese Prom. Karmin Kunz added an unassisted goal.
Decker made four saves.
It was 4-0 at halftime.
“I thought the defense played well, which helped to take the pressure off of our keeper,” Paulus said.
“With the addition of the freshmen this year and the Kunz sisters, they have made this team more dynamic and stronger which has helped us to be more competitive than we have been in past seasons.”
Ozaukee hosts Mayville at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, and start Big East play at Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah on Tuesday, April 11.