Dennis Ludwig never played soccer for honors, although plenty came his way. His latest has come for two reasons: his great career, first at Lenape (class of 1998), and then at Rutgers, and the persistence of his 8-year-old daughter, Sloane.
Ludwig is coaching his daughter’s 9-and-under team along with Janel Schillig-Lamberson. A year ago, Schillig-Lamberson, a former standout goalie at Cherokee, was inducted into the South Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame.
When Ludwig’s daughter found out that one of her coaches was inducted, she kept bugging her father to fill in the paperwork to the Hall of Fame committee. Ludwig, you see, had been nominated, but nothing could happen unless he turned in the appropriate papers.
His daughter simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Ludwig finally sent the Hall of Fame the needed materials and it was a slam dunk that he would get in.
He will be among eight inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday at Valleybrook Country Club in Blackwood.
Ludwig helped lead Lenape to the 1996 state Group 4 championship as a junior. As a senior, he was named The Inquirer’s South Jersey player of the year after the Indians won their first Olympic Conference American Division title
So Sloane knew what she was doing.
“Getting out there and seeing her love for the game really makes me smile,” Ludwig said.
He finished his career at Lenape with 53 goals and 51 assists, and he often played at less than 100 percent. As a junior, he had nine goals and 18 assists despite missing nearly 10 full games because of a groin injury. He returned for the state tournament and, in five playoff games, had two goals and five assists.
Winning a state championship bonds youngsters for life. Ludwig said that, two decades later, the joy still resonates.
“It was so exciting,” he said recently. “That is what this [induction] is all about. I have been reflecting on those great years we had and really just smile about the friendships.”
Ludwig played on a bum ankle as a senior. A day after a game against Shawnee, he was on crutches, but two days later, he scored a goal in a 2-0 win over Cherry Hill West.
He continued to excel at Rutgers, where in 2000 he was a second-team all-Big East selection and the next year was the Big East player of the year.
One of the highlights of his career came during his senior year. Ludwig scored both goals in a 2-1, triple-overtime win over defending national champion Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In 2002, he was a fourth-round draft choice of MLS’s D.C. United, the 40th player selected overall. He played with United for one season.
Now that Ludwig is being recognized, part of him feels that the entire team should be honored, not one player. That’s why he took so long to get in his paperwork.
“You go back, we had a lot of really good players,” he said. “I have never been big on these individual awards and give a lot of credit to the team.”
That doesn’t mean he isn’t grateful to have his career celebrated.
“I feel very lucky and thankful,” he said. “I feel so blessed to be recognized.”
And deep down, he has to be thrilled that his 8-year-old daughter knew best and that he listened to her advice.
South Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame induction dinner
The newest class will be inducted Sunday at Valleybrook Country Club in Blackwood.
Inductees: Players: Lee Palo (Haddonfield), Justin Abbey (St. Augustine) Cheryl Zekas (Sterling), Dennis Ludwig (Lenape), Joanna Cline (Vineland). Coaches: Kevin Meder (Lenape), Dominic Castaldo (Bordentown). Contributor: Rich Papperman.