On the first day of men's soccer practice in the summer of 1987, Markus Roeders and Frank Pelaez met and found out they were roommates. They would eventually become the best of friends and 23 years later, the duo coach one of the top women's soccer programs in the country at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
Markus has been the head coach of a Golden Eagle program that has won at least 11 games a year since he took over in 1996. Marquette has a 202-80-31 record during his tenure. And the Golden Eagles are having another good year in 2010. Marquette is currently 10-3-1 and unbeaten in the Big East Conference with a 7-0-0 record. They're ranked 23rd in the latest college soccer polls.
Throughout all those victories, Frank has been there with Markus. Pelaez has been Roeders' Associate Head Coach since day one at Marquette, continuing a friendship that began on the intramural field at UNC Asheville. The intramural field was the home of the Bulldog soccer program until it moved to Greenwood Field two years later.
"I played my first two years at Brevard Junior College before signing with UNC Asheville," remembered Roeders recently. "On the first day of practice, I came down to the field, not knowing anybody and jumped in and played. The first person I met was Frankie and found out he was my roommate."
Markus played for the Bulldogs for two seasons, while Frankie played for three years. When Roeders career ended in 1988, head coach Steve Adlard offered him a job as an assistant coach. The job didn't pay very much but that was OK.
"I really hadn't thought about going into coaching, but Coach Adlard offered me a chance and I went for it," stated Roeders. "It didn't pay much but that was OK. I was an R.A., worked in dining services and did everything I could to make a little extra money. It was a wonderful experience."
Roeders treasures his time at UNC Asheville.
"We were like a family at Asheville," declared Roeders. "I was lucky enough to make life-long friends. I met my wife Katherine there. It was an experience I wouldn't trade for anything."
The Bulldog program steadily improved under Adlard's leadership. Asheville posted upset wins over nationally-ranked Campbell and Charlotte during Roeders and Pelaez's time there. Only a last-minute overtime loss in 1990 and a shootout loss in 1991, both in the semifinals of the Big South Conference Tournament, prevented Asheville from playing for a title.
Adlard would get a chance to move on as he was hired as the head coach of Marquette's men's program. He offered Markus a chance to come with him.
"It was tough to leave Asheville but this was a great opportunity," explained Roeders. "I was able to become a full-time grad student and work with a terrific program at Marquette."
Adlard quickly built the men's program up and worked with the women's program, as well. He had Markus work with the women at times and then one day when the head coaching position opened up, the Marquette administration made Roeders the head coach in 1996. When he became head coach, his first call was to his old friend from the first practice - Frank.
"Frank and I become like brothers during our time at Asheville," stated Roeders. "We went through a great deal during our time as roommates and even after I left Asheville, we stayed in touch.
"When I got the head job and was going to be able to hire an assistant, my first call was to Frank," added Roeders. "He knows the game very well, and I just had to have him on our staff."
Pelaez graduated from Asheville in 1992 with degrees in Art and Spanish. He had already begun his coaching career as he coached both club ball and high school soccer at A.C. Reynolds. In four seasons as a head coach at Reynolds, Pelaez compiled an overall mark of 88-21-6 and earned Western North Carolina Coach of the Year honors for both boys and girls in 1995 and 1996. He was also the Boys' Coach of the Year in 1993. Under his guidance, both the boys' and girls' teams earned their first conference titles in school history. In addition, both teams qualified for the state quarterfinals three times.
"When I finished playing, I got into coaching both in club and at Reynolds," commented Pelaez. "I really enjoyed coaching and watching young players develop.
"I was pretty excited to get a call from Markus to join him at Marquette," added Pelaez. "Markus was such a great friend during out time at Asheville. He was from Germany and I was from Columbia, so we didn't get to go home for fall break or Thanksgiving. We would hang out and do everything together."
Frank had been to Milwaukee in the summer to work Marquette's camps. Coming to Milwaukee in the winter was a little different.
"I didn't know about the snow until I got up there and that was a bit of an adjustment," joked Pelaez.
Markus and Frank are proud of the great program they've built at Marquette but the two are even more proud of the success their program has had off the field.
"We want to win games and compete for championships but there's so much more to life that just games," stated Roeders. "We want to be winners in everything we do, especially off the field.
"What we have tried to do is create a family-like atmosphere," added Roeders. "One of the things I loved about my time in Asheville was we were like a family. We want to have that at Marquette.
"While Frankie and I are delighted at the victories we've had over the years," Roeders also said. "We are just as proud when we go to one of our former players weddings and most of her teammates are there celebrating this great moment with her. That means a great deal to us when we see that happen."
Pelaez has enjoyed his time at Marquette.
"I've really enjoyed my time working with Markus and working with the young ladies we've had the pleasure of coaching," admitted Pelaez. "I've never looked at coaching as a job. It's been a tremendous amount of fun and incredibly rewarding."
Note - If you know of a former Bulldog student-athlete who you would like to see profiled, contact Mike Gore at email@example.com or call 828-251-6923.