The past few weeks have provided one long, exciting soccer journey for Jim and Mary Van Lieshout.
The couple has logged a glut of frequent flier miles while adjusting drastic travel plans on the fly, all to follow the recent thrills provided by their two soccer-playing children. Katy Van Lieshout is a senior at the University of Denver and was a starter on a historic Pioneers team. Their son Kevin is a junior at Boulder, where he played a key role in the Panthers' drive toward the program's first state title as one of the team's starting central defenders.
"When their schedules came out there were about 35 games to get to over the season," Jim Van Lieshout said. "We mapped it out and there was only one overlap game for them both. Usually at least one of us was at all of their games."
That challenge grew a little more hectic for the Van Lieshouts over the past few weeks, although it was an exciting ride.
Take, for instance, the weekend of Friday Nov. 2. Jim and Mary Van Lieshout drove to Logan, Utah, to watch DU open the Western Athletic Conference tournament with a win against Texas State. On Saturday Nov. 3 the couple took an early flight back to Colorado to watch Boulder record a 1-0 victory against Rock Canyon in the Class 5A quarterfinals. The next morning, the Van Lieshouts flew back to Utah in time for the WAC final, which the Pioneers lost a 1-0 against Utah State, before driving back home.
At the beginning of the following week the Van Lieshouts were facing a possible scheduling nightmare. If Boulder could beat Fairview in the semifinals on Wednesday Nov. 7 -- the Panthers did with a 1-0 overtime victory -- the 5A state title game was scheduled for late afternoon on Saturday Nov. 10. More than likely, DU would be playing on the road in the NCAA tournament.
Yet not only did the Pioneers receive an at-large bid, but they opened the NCAA tournament at home on the 10th. The Van Lieshouts were at DU's snowy CIBER Field to watch their daughter help the Pioneers record just their second NCAA tournament victory in the program's history, a 3-1 win against Colorado College.
In one final twist, Boulder's 5A title game scheduled for that same evening was rescheduled to last Monday due to snow. Jim Van Lieshout had to rearrange a flight for a business trip, eventually taking a red eye out of Denver hours after the Panthers defeated Smoky Hill 3-1 to claim the state championship.
Katy Van Lieshout and the Pioneers provided the family with one final thrill, as DU came back from a 2-0 deficit to post a 3-2 comeback win in overtime against Maryland in the second round on Friday. Katy Van Lieshout's DU career came to an end on Sunday as the Pioneers were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Stanford.
"We feel very lucky. We're so proud of both teams and both their accomplishments," Mary Van Lieshout said. "We feel very fortunate that out kids have gotten the coaching that they have. Both staffs have been amazing for them and it's just been very fun for us to watch."
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