Quaker Valley senior goalie Jack Regueiro remembers the first time he thought about playing for Gene Klein.
When Regueiro was in third grade, he traveled with Matt Rodgers to the PIAA soccer championship in Hershey to watch his friend’s older brother, Mark Rodgers, play for the Quakers.
“Coach Klein was there coaching,” Regueiro said. “Matt’s family told us one day we would play for him, and it was exciting.”
After four years of playing for Klein, Regueiro and Matt Rodgers — now co-captains — helped their coach earn his 500th career win in a 2-0 shutout against Keystone Oaks on Sept. 18.
The milestone was honored before a 2-1 victory over Blackhawk on Oct. 2.
“It’s obviously a great honor and puts you in elite company, but it’s something you share with every coach and every player you’ve worked with,” Klein said. “I’ve never scored a goal for Quaker Valley, so it’s really not about me. It’s about all of these players who have put everything into the program these past 30-plus years. This is just about them as it is any milestone for me.”
In Klein’s 29 seasons coaching at Quaker Valley, the Quakers have won seven WPIAL titles and a state soccer record six PIAA titles. In that time, the school has produced five national All-Americans, 19 regional All-Americans and 23 All-State players.
“The Quaker Valley community is so fortunate that they’ve had someone of his caliber in this district for all these years,” athletic director Mike Mastroianni said.
“I’ve always said I’m not sure there’s a better high school soccer coach in the country. It’s more than the coaching. He’s an outstanding teacher, and he brings that to soccer.”
Soccer was only a club sport at Quaker Valley before Klein started coaching. The program joined the PIAA in 1981, and soccer has flourished on all levels in the community ever since, Mastroianni said.
“People don’t understand, all this is (Klein’s),” Mastroianni said. “He developed soccer in this area.”
The Quakers won their first WPIAL championship in 1985 and won five more in the 1990’s, including three straight from 1991-93.
Ironically, after the 2005 state championship game where the dream of playing under Klein began for Regueiro and Rodgers, Klein left Quaker Valley to coach the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
But the boys got their wish when Klein returned to Quaker Valley in 2011.
“It was always our dream to have Coach Klein back when Jack and I got into high school, and it kind of seemed like the legacies coming together when coach came back our freshman year,” said Rodgers, a senior midfielder. “It’s been an incredible journey to work with him for four years. It’s a dream come true.”
Quaker Valley won its most recent WPIAL title in 2012, but perhaps the greatest example of the sustained success Klein has created is the streak of 32 straight seasons that the Quakers have qualified for playoffs.
That streak is on the line this year, with the Quakers currently sitting in fourth place in Section 5-AA. But the team is putting everything they have into keeping the streak alive for Klein’s sake, Regueiro said.
“You can tell in his voice, soccer is his deepest passion,” Rodgers said. “When the season is on the line, you can tell.
“All we talk about is soccer. We have our group of nine seniors, and we’ll walk into his room before school and talk about the section. With coach, it’s all soccer.”