Dombrowski bringing success back to West Allis Hale soccer
Former Husky enjoying his return
West Allis - Roy Williams accomplished it with the University of North Carolina basketball team and Urban Meyer is currently working on it with the Ohio State University football squad.
Both coaches returned to their alma maters with the goal of restoring a then-struggling sports program to its former heights.
Neil Dombrowski is doing the same thing with the boys soccer program at West Allis Hale High School this season.
Dombrowski knows something about soccer success at Hale, as he played on two of the Huskies' three WIAA state tournament qualifying teams from 1997-99.
Dombrowski was part of the 1998 and 1999 squads, which reached the WIAA semifinals, falling both times to Homestead.
Now, he is back in the familiar school halls, this time as head coach of the Huskies, and he appears to be on his way to turning around the program.
The Huskies have not returned to state since 1999 and finished 9-10-3 last season. This year, however, they completed the regular season at 13-8-1.
They won a pair of games in the always-rugged Greater Metro Conference over West Allis Central and Wauwatosa East, and they were competitive with traditional powers like Brookfield Central (3-1 loss) and Brookfield East (2-0).
Hale also downed Oak Creek and the University School of Milwaukee, two usually strong programs.
The Huskies earned a fifth seed in their WIAA Division 1 sectional and opened play on Tuesday against Milwaukee Hamilton. A victory would likely earn them a rematch against Oak Creek in a regional championship matchup Thursday on the Knights' home field.
But regardless of what happens in the playoffs, Dombrowski has reached his first goal - making the Huskies competitive again.
"Coming back to Hale this year," he said, "I didn't really know what to expect. Hale soccer has a proud history, and I was encouraged by the passion shown for the program by current players, their families, alumni and school officials.
"I knew there was a lot of young talent and we were a team very much on the rise. My goal for the year was to have a winning record."
Accomplishing top goal
The Huskies wasted no time in working toward that goal, as they won their first three games by a combined 13-0. They moved that to 4-1-1 and stayed above .500 the rest of the way.
"This has been great for me," Dombrowski said. "I wanted to see the program get back to where it was when I played."
Dombrowski grew up in West Allis as one of eight children of Mark and Judy Dombrowski. He and four of his brothers played soccer at Hale, and he, along with brothers Tighe and Chad, were on the Huskies' state qualifying teams of the late 1990's.
"In my freshman year, coach John Ricciardi led Hale to state," he recalled. "I remember how excited we were after winning the first-round game, but I'll always remember that we were not satisfied and were focused on winning it all. We lost to Homestead in the semifinals, 2-1.
"In my sophomore year, we again made it to state and we believed that we could win the tournament. After winning the first-round game, we met Homestead once again in the semis and we lost in OT."
Hale was only choice
After graduation, he and the four brothers all went on to play soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then on professional teams.
Dombrowski has been coaching youth soccer at the Parkland Soccer Club of West Allis but had not coached at the high school level - until Hale came calling.
"This is the only place I would have coached," he said. "I have a passion for this school and I care about this school. It was an easy decision."
He said his transition was made easier by former Hale coaches Ricciardi and Marty Lataille, along with current assistant Mark Clementi, who has been coaching at Hale since Dombrowski played there.
Dombrowski said he possesses many great memories from his days as a Hale player and now hopes his current players can make their own memories.
"I'm very encouraged about the future of our young players," he said.
He also is optimistic about the long-term picture, adding, "with the help of the West Allis Recreation Department, the Parkland Soccer Club and Hale soccer, hopefully we can provide a high level of coaching to these players.
"The reason I took this job is because I want to help Hale become known once again as a successful program with talented, tough, skillful and hard-working players."
HALE 10, UNION GROVE 0: The Huskies won on Oct. 1 behind three goals from Alex Kaul and one apiece by Dane Ulik, Alex Sykes, David Livoti, Kevin Mesich, Sean Sutton and Bobby Saskowski
MEN. FALLS 3, HALE 0: The Huskies were blanked in their regular-season finale to finish 2-5 in the Greater Metro Conference
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