Follow along as we retrace the Bohemian soccer path of young Tim Lancina, a Shorewood High School graduate whose story evokes the feel — if not the scope — of another Wisconsin footballing iconoclast, Jay DeMerit.
The new movie "Rise and Shine" chronicles DeMerit’s success. Lancina might never see his story on film, but believe him when he says, “It’s been a crazy, crazy ride.”
Act I: Shorewood High School
Skilled and supremely confident, Lancina scored 40 goals in four varsity seasons, the last three playing for SHS coach Aron Gentry.
“He had a great understanding of the game. He always thought that his ability was greater than others, and it usually was,” Gentry says. “He put in the time to have that confidence.”
Most remarkable, perhaps, was his senior year. Moved out to the wing and playing only part time because of a badly damaged meniscus, Lancina scored 19 goals and assisted on 11 more, earning honorable mention all-state.
“If his knee wasn’t blown out, I’m sure he would have scored about 30 goals,” Gentry says.
Act II: Germany
Lancina’s plan was to graduate after the fall semester of his senior year and get a jump start on college soccer. Though he got the diploma early, the colleges he sought out weren’t so ready for him.
Many of the state’s Division 1 programs were in flux and they recruited him sparingly, if at all. Despite his 33 ACT score, he couldn’t get into any Ivy League universities. Shorewood is a small, Division 2 school, and Gentry says, “I think he sacrificed a lot by playing in our program.” The knee injury didn’t help.
“I didn’t get recruited anywhere I wanted to go, so I thought I would make best of it and go to Germany,” Lancina says.
As a foreign exchange student at the high school level, he found a team in his town to play with and, he says, was scoring goals and having success. Then, an unlikely connection through his hometown club changed the path once again.
Act III: Fortuna Köln
Andreas Davi coaches for the Milwaukee Bavarians, but played professionally in his home nation of Germany. He had met Lancina briefly here in the states and was eager to help upon learning that the young player would spend a few months overseas.
As it happened, Davi was constructing a relationship between Bavarians and Fortuna Köln, a fifth-division professional club. Lancina soon found himself trying out.
“It was one phone call,” Davi says.
Lancina says, “It was almost like I was the test of quality, what is the Bavarian club actually producing?”
He survived the first day of tryouts, Davi says, when 20 hopefuls were pared to 10. But on day two, Lancina pulled a hamstring and that was that.
Act IV: Madison, Year 1
The University of Wisconsin-Madison was Lancina’s “fallback” school, but there he was in fall 2009, a serious student without the structure of soccer for the first time.
“I took for granted what I had in Milwaukee,” he said. “For the fall semester, I hardly played any soccer outside of intramurals. It was the longest I had gone without playing soccer on regular basis.”
Fate stepped in again, however, when John Trask replaced Todd Yeagley as the Badgers’ coach in January of Lancina’s freshman year. Davi talked up Lancina again, this time to Trask, a native of Milwaukee.
Lancina can’t remember how he was invited to try out, but after an unexpectedly long process to come into “compliance” with the NCAA, he had only two weeks to impress, rather than the full spring season.
“It was the most tiring two weeks of my entire life,” says Lancina.
He didn’t make it.
“I thought that was pretty much it,” he says. “Saying I got a tryout, I thought that was a pretty big deal in itself.”
Act V: Madison, Year 2
He spent the summer playing for the Milwaukee Bavarians’ team in the National Premier Soccer League, then was invited by a Badgers assistant coach to fill a vacant slot as a team manager with the promise of some free gear and the chance to knock it around at practice on occasion.
“I really encouraged him to do that,” Davi says.
“I had all these aspirations of proving myself in practice, but the reality was, very rarely did I ever help out with practice,” Lancina says.
He enjoyed the connection and structure, however, and in the spring continued to participate in weekly scrimmages with current and former Badgers players. He found himself earning a steadily larger role, and finally that old confidence began to flow back.
“There was one scrimmage and one goal, I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he says. “I ended up getting ball played over my head, brought it down with one touch, and scored with the next touch.
“I don’t think anyone expected the manager to score a goal like that.”
At the end of the spring, UW coaches told Lancina that if there was a roster spot open in the fall, it would be his.
Act VI: Madison, Year 3
Lancina thrived for the Bavarians in the summer, scoring twice in the match that clinched the NPSL Midwest Division championship. But it wouldn’t be the Tim Lancina Story without a little more drama.
UW had recruited a keeper who played in the residential development program for Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer, and was in camp with both U.S. and Mexican national youth teams, according to Eric Anderson of the website Wisconsin Soccer Central. But Eduardo "Lalo" Fernandez signed with Uruguayan club Penarol just before the college season began, and Lancina had his spot on the UW roster.
“Honestly, it’s been a dream come true, seriously,” Lancina says.
The dream veered briefly into reality on Oct. 23, 2011, when No. 25, Tim Lancina, checked into the Badgers’ Big Ten match at Northwestern.
“I was so pumped on adrenalin, I only remember flashes in the game,” he said. “I remember thinking I was quicker on the turf than the Northwestern defenders and I wish we’d gone over the top.”
He played 10 minutes in his only appearance in a Division I college match so far.
And if you’re writing the screenplay of The Tim Lancina Story, be sure to include this detail:
The match took place on his 21st birthday.