High School Sports

Blonds in a bottle: Waterloo soccer players have new look for state tournament

Waterloo’s mantra at the Class 2A state soccer tournament could be: “Blonds have more fun.”

The Bulldogs were a team of blonds Friday and they were able to laugh and joke about it after posting a 3-1 victory over Mundelein Carmel in the semifinals.

Senior Chase Rubemeyer hatched the scheme, which coach Chad Holden said was first discussed way back in June as the team looked forward to the season.

“Of course, he was already the blondest kid anyway,” Holden joked.

Junior Ben Huels said: “Rubemeyer said if we make it to state, we’re going to all dye our hair. That’s where it all started.”

Rubemeyer remembers Holden bringing up the subject a couple of years ago.

“I think it was back sophomore year, it was one of our more down years and he was saying if we won regionals, he would dye his hair,” Rubemeyer said. “So starting in regionals (this year), we were talking about it. Then in sectionals, we were talking about it more. Then in super-sectionals, I said, ‘Come on, guys, what do we have to lose?’

“I thought it would look cool. I guess I kind of got everyone to do it.”

It took some convincing and a dose of peer pressure, but the momentum built.

“There were a couple of people who were completely, ‘Let’s go with the idea,’” Rubemeyer said. “I know Dawson (Holden, Chad’s son) and I were the first two to do it, and Gavin Taylor. A lot of people weren’t doing it, and they were like, ‘No, I don’t think it will look good.’

“I just said, ‘Come on, guys, do it for us seniors, it’s our last season. You’re going to think about this later in life and say: Wouldn’t it have been cool if I had dyed my hair?’”

Senior Ethan Lewis’ mom, Tanya, a professional hair stylist, worked on most of the players. Others players went to hair salons.

“They started seeing us and they were thinking, ‘Man, it would look pretty cool if all of us looked the same,’” Rubemeyer said.

Junior Griffin Lenhardt said he “did it for the seniors.”

But Lenhardt added with a mischievous smile: “I was pressured into it. I wouldn’t normally do this. I was skeptical about it, and then I got to school the next day and the girls were all over me, so I thought I might keep it.”

Huels didn’t go completely blond. His sides remained dark.

“I think Ben’s mom said he might get grounded if he did all of it, so he only has the top,” Rubemeyer said.

Senior Kane Osterhage said the hair-color change was a “chemistry thing.”

“The whole team did it to bring us together,” he said.

The final four

Huels, Lenhardt, and juniors Philip Most and Ryan Stites are enjoying their first seasons of high school soccer after playing academy ball as freshmen and sophomores.

Waterloo’s mainstays agree that the Bulldogs might not be where they are, playing Peoria Notre Dame for a state championship on Saturday, without the foursome coming aboard.

“I don’t think we would,” Rubemeyer said. “I think we would have had a good season, but I don’t think we would be this far. I’m definitely happy that they decided to come back. I was pressuring Ben last year, because I thought if Ben came ... he was the one that was iffy, so I thought if Ben came, for sure the rest of them would.”

Osterhage has clicked with Huels on and off the field, and he agrees that without the four players, reaching state might have been too tall an order to fill.

“They’ve been a tremendous help to us,” Osterhage said. “They’ve done a great job this year. Griffin, we play it to him on the side and he brings it up. That’s how we score a lot of our goals. Benny up top, he’s great with his head. Philip in the middle just goes through people. He’s a great player. And Stites has great foot skills.”

Lenhardt is glad everything has worked out so well.

“I think we all agreed (to come back),” he said. “We sat down and thought with the talent they already had, if we added ourselves to the mix, we could do something really special here. That’s why we were all on board to do it.”

Playing for dad

Dawson Holden, 16, wasn’t even born when Chad Holden took over as the Waterloo coach in 1998. Dawson has graduated from sitting in a stroller to being a ballboy and now is a main cog in the Bulldogs’ midfield.

“He’s taught me a lot,” Dawson Holden said of his dad.

Dawson Holden always remembers Chad enjoying the final weeks of the season. Never more than this year, however, as the Bulldogs have assured themselves of their highest-ever finish.

“I was a ballboy since I was like 7 years old,” Dawson Holden said. “My dad always loves the postseason, the suspense. He says he grows gray hair from it.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm