MSHSSCA Inducts Phil Toconita into Hall of Fame
Last Sunday afternoon high school soccer players from across the state filled the River Centre Banquet room in downtown St. Paul. They were gathered for the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association’s (MSHSSCA) awards banquets. The players were there to be honored for their heroics on the field. So when former St. Paul Central Varsity Coach Phil Toconita was also honored by being inducted into the MSHSSCA Hall of Fame most of the students didn’t have had a clue who Toconita was. Yet the former St. Paul high school coach was in part a reason they were gathered to be recognized for their achievements, especially players who came from St. Paul schools.
Jorey Erickson has been the coach of the St. Paul Central Boys Varsity team since 2001, two years after Toconita stepped down. Erickson was the first St. Paul or Minneapolis city high school coach to take his team to the MSHSL State Soccer Tournament. His teams are often ranked in the top ten in state and are in competition for sectional championships. He says Toconita laid the groundwork for all that to happen.
“Most of my players take for granted that high school soccer and soccer in general has always been there,” said Erickson. “They need to hear the stories about the people like Phil, Buzz (Lagos), Chuck (Scanlon) and well as many others who took the time to care about a sport that no one else did. Phil took the job and went at it full force to start up and grow the St. Paul City Conference. Fields, nets, players, coaches, refs’ knowledge, all of these things that needed to be put in place. He took the first step then others followed. He grew this league to a respected level. At the end of this 2010 season we saw 3 of the 6 St. Paul teams ranked in the top ten in the State. That was made possible by Phil and others taking the first step.”
As we strive to create a legacy and honor those who have helped high school soccer grow, perhaps the most telling component of Phil’s Toconita’s Hall of Fame career is the fact that there are eight former players of Phil’s now coaching in the metro area.
Bill Vance, President of MSHSSCA
“In 13 seasons as boys coach of St. Paul Central High School, Phil Toconita was a pioneer and trail blazer on numerous fronts,” read Bill Vance, President of the MSHSSCA, the organization that honored Toconita on Sunday. “Phil not only started the St. Paul Central soccer program but was instrumental in supporting the start of varsity soccer in multiple St. Paul city schools. He was the first coach from the St. Paul City Conference to join the MSHSSCA in 1987; he was a Region 3AA representative to the MSHSL, he served on multiple MSHSSCA committees, earned state coach of the year and remains a member of the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America. His career record included conference championships and producing all-state players. He finished with a career record of 148 wins 42 losses and 10 draws.”
“As we strive to create a legacy and honor those who have helped high school soccer grow, perhaps the most telling component of Phil’s Hall of Fame career is the fact that there are eight former players of Phil’s now coaching in the metro area — Phil’s passion for student-athletes and passion for soccer is infectious,” concluded Vance.
“He gave me a great opportunity to coach in a program that was already successful and growing and I am very thankful for that,” said Erickson. “When he stops by games and practices the kids look at this small white haired man with curiosity and ask who he is. I used to reply, “that’s Central’s former coach,” and explain how he started city soccer. Now I don’t have to say much because one of their teammates usually fills them in before I can. Hopefully letting these players know about pioneers like Phil gives them a feeling of tradition and belonging to their programs.”