Wisconsin athletics is no stranger to family affairs.
Over the last several seasons, multiple teams have had sibling athletes, from the Kelter twins on both the women’s soccer and hockey teams, the Ammerman sisters on the women’s hockey team, the Little brothers on the men’s hockey team and the Trotter and Armstrong brothers on the football team.
But rarely has a family had such a strong connection with UW as the Meuer family.
While Keegan skates his junior season with the men’s hockey team, his younger sister McKenna is in the midst of her freshman campaign with the women’s soccer team.
And they aren’t even the first of the Meuer clan to don the cardinal and white. Their father, Kelly Meuer, played for the men’s soccer team in the late ’70s. Their older sisters both played for the women’s soccer team — Molly and Katy played their senior seasons in ’04 and ’07, respectively.
“It’s ingrained as a way of life for us,” Keegan said. “When you’re that close to it, you don’t realize how special it is and how lucky you are to be a part of something like that, it [isn’t] taken for granted. All of us have worked extremely hard at our craft and what we love to do to make it possible, to make it happen. There’s a sense of ownership and wanting to continue that tradition.”
For the Meuers, that tradition seems to lie at McClimon complex — the very place McKenna has held court this fall.
In just her first year, the midfielder has netted four goals — the most of any freshman — and one assist through 17 games played, 15 of which she started.
The transition to college can always be a tricky one — especially in Division I athletics — but for McKenna, having Keegan right on campus has made her freshman year that much easier.
“It’s actually been really great to have him,” McKenna said. “Obviously you don’t always get along with your siblings. With both of us being in college at the same time, it’s really helped bring us together. He’s awesome; he’ll have me over for dinner all the time — me and my soccer teammates. He’s always there to help when I need it. … It gives you another level of comfort when you’re in this new environment.”
Before bonding a little more through their shared college experience, they were typical siblings — fighting, picking on each other and of course making the most of sibling rivalries.
They were never at each other’s throats, nor did they ever hate each other — apparently, the kicking and screaming fights were left to Molly and Katy — but Keegan always had the upper hand.
“We never didn’t get along; it was just me kind of picking on her as older siblings do,” Keegan said. “But I kind of run her show a little bit; she’s used to it. Now that she’s grown up and now that she’s in college, she’s learned to push back a little bit.”
When both of her older sisters played, they each served their senior seasons as captains. While time will only tell for McKenna, one thing is certain — she has never felt any pressure from anyone outside herself to continue playing soccer, much less about doing so at Wisconsin.
“When I’m playing, there’s a whole other level to it,” McKenna said. “I’m not just representing myself; I’m representing my family. People have known my sisters; there are people who know me through my sisters, through my dad and all that kind of stuff. It’s a whole different experience playing when it’s not more so about yourself, but what you represent and what your program represents. … To continue on something that started decades ago has been really awesome.”
“There was never any pressure for us to follow in each other’s footsteps, but at the same time you didn’t want to let anybody down either,” Keegan added. “So there was no pressure on it which was really nice but at the end of the day you always knew you wanted to continue this. This is our hometown. This is where we live; this is where we love to be. There’s nothing better than being a Badger.”
While McKenna upholds a Meuer soccer tradition, Keegan took his talents to the ice in the footsteps of his uncles — Rob and Jeff Andringa.
The Andringa brothers helped UW earn three of its six NCAA titles, Rob with the 1990 team and Jeff with the 1981 and ’83 teams.
Keegan admitted growing up, he wanted to be his uncle Rob. Whether watching the 1990 “Drive for Five” championship tape for the millionth time or treasuring a broken Gary Shuchuk stick — now his coach — the kid was made to skate.
“I did soccer for a while, but I didn’t love it. I hated it,” Keegan said. “I play hockey so I can glide and use my momentum. I hate running. I always grew up, I wanted to play hockey. I had Ninja Turtle skates. I’d skate around the kitchen. All I did was hockey. In kindergarten show and tell I brought a hockey stick in and that was my toy. It always was hockey for me. Just having my uncles be a part of that and to be able to follow in their footsteps is definitely a great honor.”
While Keegan has yet to earn a national championship ring, he was a part of the 2009-10 championship run, his true freshman season, which he redshirted. The following two seasons, the forward played 51 games and scored eight goals and six assists for 14 points. Through two games in the 2012-13 season, he has one assist on a Frankie Simonelli goal.
Of his eight goals, seven were scored last season — although McKenna apparently has yet to see one.
“She always comes to my games, but she’s too cool to stay for the whole thing,” Keegan said. “So she’ll leave and then I’ll score once she leaves. She’s under the impression that she can’t come anymore. … I’ll leave a ticket for her as always; my family has season tickets so she’s always welcome and I definitely welcome that. I try to get to her games whenever I can.”
The support they give each other and receive from their long line of Badger ancestors gives each of them that extra edge, whether on the ice or at the pitch.
“I believe that I have the best family in the world,” McKenna said. “They’ll support me no matter what I do — always there when I need them and I think that’s a huge reason again why I wanted to go to Madison, because it’s so natural when my whole family had gone there.”