Photo by Bill Roseberry
Nick Funk (right) poses with John Simmons at Elijah P’s in downtown Alton during an impromptu fundraiser for the Alton boys’ soccer program on Tuesday evening. The newly hired AHS head coach delved into his new position by trying to raise funds for new uniforms and equipment, even down to earning money for new soccer balls.
Nick Funk is about to bring his brand of soccer to Alton High. The Redbirds should prepare to be the aggressors.
Funk, 28, the new Alton boys’ head coach, figures to have them in an attack mode once they start their season Aug. 24 against Springfield Sacred-Griffin at AHS. The Birds open practice Wednesday, Aug. 10, on their new field and Funk, a 2006 AHS grad, can’t wait to begin.
“I think we have a strong core group of guys coming back and we have the skill level to compete,” Funk said. “Our fitness level needs to jump a little better because we want to be able to run the other teams off the field.”
There was plenty of running for Funk during his playing days for coach Greg Nasello at Alton High. Funk mainly was a midfielder, though he spent time as a forward in honing his overall skills.
“The only position I didn’t play consistently was goalie,” Funk said.
He went to Illinois College in Jacksonville, Lewis and Clark Community College and St. Louis Christian College after that. Funk served the last three years as an assistant for Jay Robertson, who resigned following the 2015 season. Robertson, a Granite City High grad, guided the Redbirds to a 53-62-11 record the past six seasons. Alton went 9-10-3 last year.
“We want to be able to compete in the Southwestern Conference and there’s no reason we can’t do that,” Funk said. “Our senior group is pretty strong and we will have a few juniors and sophomores we will count on this season.
“But we will rely on the seniors a lot.”
AHS director of athletics Jeff Alderman senses that Funk is the right guy to lead the kickers.
“Nick has great pride in the program and he’s really connected with the soccer community locally,” Alderman said. “That’s very important.”
Alderman added, “He might be the youngest head coach we have, but he’s very knowledgeable.”
The Redbirds have graduated top gun Eric Ferenbach, the 2015 AdVantage News’ Co-Player of the Year, so they will have to retool their offense. Ferenbach, headed to Missouri University Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., tallied 18 goals and 3 assists for 39 points in 2015.
Nick Hatfield (Millikin), Caden Chestnut (SWIC) and goalie Devin Colley (McHenry County College) are three other key losses. Colley, bound for McHenry County in baseball, registered nine wins last season.
Nevertheless, the Birds expect Skylar Funk (3 goals and 10 assists), C.J. Nasello (4 goals and 4 assists) and Stephen Nguyen (3 goals and 3 assists) to pick up some of the scoring slack.
Senior Brandon Wilson and junior Miles Marfell are in a battle to replace Colley in goal.
“We actually have five guys in the program competing there,” Funk said of the goalie spot. “That’s a good thing.”
Tim Henson will be Funk’s main assistant. The new head coach still has to fill two more assistant slots.
“Our style of play will shift from game to game, depending upon who we are playing,” Funk said. “We intend to attack more than we did in previous years and we want to be flexible in doing multiple things.
“We will build the team up from the back.”
When Funk isn’t coaching the Redbirds, you can find him working at RE/MAX Express in Godfrey or at The Bridge, a church on 12th Street in Alton. He works with youths and in communications at The Bridge.
Soccer, though, is his passion and coaching the Redbirds is something he has always wanted to do.
“I’m excited about it and I feel like I can handle it,” Funk said of becoming a head coach. “A lot of people have helped me along the way, including my parents, an uncle and different coaches.”
He intends to provide a similar helping hand to the Redbirds.
“We want to be mentally tough and that means studying the game a lot more, being accountable and playing smarter,” Funk said. “We want to focus a lot on not making mistakes.”
All of their home matches will be at the AHS Piasa Motor Fuels Field that opened last year. The Redbirds played there once in 2015 while spending most of their time on the pitch at Gordon Moore Park.
“The new facility is great, it’s a centralized location and the field has great potential,” Funk said.
He’s confident the Redbirds will exhibit the same type of potential and make the most of their talent.
“It’s awesome to be coaching at Alton High,” Funk said. “What was poured into me when I played here is what I want to pour into our kids.”
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