Laura Moynihan Field A True Gem
Sept. 7, 2011
MILWAUKEE - As the women's soccer teams from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette get set to take the field for their nationally televised game tonight, they will certainly have a lot on their minds.
One thing that might get overlooked but deserves some recognition is the surface the two teams are playing on.
While UWM has hosted the annual derby nine times, this is the first time the two programs will square off on Milwaukee's new playing surface that was officially renamed Laura Moynihan Field at Engelmann Stadium at a recent dedication.
Women's soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Moynihan family are seemingly joined at the hip.
Laura Moynihan started coaching the women's team in 1991, just the eighth year of its existence.
After one year at the helm, Laura's daughter Susan took over. After five successful years, Sue passed the baton on to brother, Michael, who has since led the Panthers to an outstanding eight NCAA Tournament appearances and 12 Horizon League regular season titles in 14 years as head coach.
It's only fitting that recently UWM took that family connection to another level by formally dedicating their soccer facility Laura Moynihan Field at Engelmann Stadium.
"The Moynihan family has been a major part of women's soccer here at Milwaukee," Director of Athletics Rick Costello said during the halftime ceremony of Milwaukee's 1-0 win over DePaul. "Their support, and the support of all the donors assembled here today has helped keep the program performing at a high level. The support has also played a major role in improving the great soccer facility that is now Laura Moynihan Field at Engelmann Stadium."
"We are proud of all the accomplishments of our women's soccer program, both on the field and in the classroom. The foundation for this kind of success was built by Laura Moynihan, and her son, Michael, has helped keep the Panthers performing at an extremely high level."
Last spring, construction began on then-Engelmann Field to upgrade the playing surface from natural grass to a synthetic surface to allow both men's and women's programs to not only play there, but to practice on their home field, as well.
Coaches and staff agree, it is a huge benefit to the soccer programs and the entire athletic department to have a facility like Engelmann, which boasts a world-class, FIFA 2-Star-rated playing surface.
That construction started largely due to the work of Michael Moynihan.
"I think back to probably about four and a half years ago now," the current women's soccer coach recalled. "I sat down with then-Athletic Director Bud Haidet here at UWM and I said, `we have a need here at UWM; we need to do something about our practice facilities, our game field needs renovation, can I pursue this and I'd like to name it after my mother.'"
Laura Moynihan was not only a former soccer coach at UWM, but also an instrumental part of bringing women's soccer in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin to the level it is today.
Growing up not knowing much about soccer, Laura quickly saw her four children's passion for the sport and eagerly began doing all she could to further their enthusiasm.
At the dedication, Sue Moynihan recalled a story from her childhood. Being nine years old, Sue was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. After knowing full well she wanted to play professional soccer, she was quickly told no such thing existed.
"Soon after this, mom decided it was time to start girls' soccer teams in Wauwatosa," Sue said. "Over the years, her passion for helping girls find opportunities to play soccer at increasingly higher levels persisted. How fitting this field now bears her name; a field where many of the first professional women's soccer players from Wisconsin played collegiately.
"On behalf of the future soccer players who will use this facility, thank you for sharing Laura's vision. You've done more than help build a world-class playing surface; you've provided an important tool that for years to come will help many girls realize the reality of their own dreams."
Eventually, Laura became the women's head coach at UWM. During her first season, she was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away one year later.
Michael Moynihan reiterated the reason behind naming the field after his mother and former UWM head coach.
"I feel her story is an import one; one that deserves to echo through time so others can learn from it and be inspired by it," Michael said.
"There are certain people that as we walk through this world I think are different. They're acutely aware of other people around them. And it's not just a presence. It's not just the presence of people but it's being in tune with their needs, with their emotions, maybe their dreams, their hopes, their circumstance in life, and these people that have this awareness, they live lives of service. Service is just, I think, part of their being. I think I'm extremely lucky I have two parents that I would classify in this regard; my father as well but my mother would certainly fall into that category and this story is about her."
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell called the Moynihans the "first family of Panther soccer," and what a true statement that is.
Throughout the many years of success for the men's and women's programs, no family has had a greater impact on the sport at UWM than theirs.
"Engelmann Stadium is a very unique environment," Lovell said. "We are the envy of other universities across the country. We've installed one of the great playing surfaces in North America, which we are standing on today, and now that playing surface has an equally great name: Laura Moynihan Field."