Former soccer, tennis standout to be inducted into Quaker Valley hall of fame
Ben McKnight still spends plenty of time on the soccer field and tennis court, but the experiences have changed quite a bit for the 1992 Quaker Valley graduate.
For one, the member of the 1992 WPIAL champion tennis team now plays a completely different form of the game — platform tennis. And on the soccer field, one of the most prolific scorers in Quaker Valley history is now teaching the game to a group of 6-year-olds that includes his daughter, Madelyn.
“I kind of reflect on how (coach) Gene (Klein) got us motivated,” McKnight said. “I don't know if that really reflects on 6-year-old girls — I just try to keep them entertained.”
McKnight, the leader of the 1991 PIAA champion boys soccer team, will be inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame the weekend of Sept. 28-30. He will be enshrined along with five other individuals and the 1971-72 boys basketball team.
“I'm obviously very excited about the privilege and honor of being inducted,” McKnight said. “At this point in my life, I was just pretty excited to have that kind of label put on my high school career. I was also kind of excited because it feels like a reflection not just on me but on our state championship-winning team.”
The 1991 soccer season began a decade of dominance for the Quaker Valley program, as the Quakers won five WPIAL championships and four PIAA titles in the 1990s.
McKnight led the way that season, scoring 40 goals — a total that still ranks third on Quaker Valley's single-season list. His penalty-kick goal in the PIAA championship game gave the Quakers a 1-0 victory over Holy Ghost Prep.
“His senior year was outstanding and really picked up the level of the team with his play,” said Klein, the longtime Quaker Valley soccer coach. “He really was a guy who in a lot of ways carried us because we relied on him for all the key goals and (in) all the key games, and he always delivered.”
For his part, McKnight said he remembered more about the final minutes of the state championship game than he did about his winning goal.
“Time just seemed to be ticking down so slowly on the clock,” he said. “We were just fighting so hard to keep our 1-0 lead.”
The championships didn't end with soccer, as McKnight served as captain and played singles for the WPIAL title-winning tennis team.
“It was always coming down to the doubles matches towards the end, and those guys always came through for us in the playoffs,” McKnight said.
McKnight went on to have a productive career at Georgetown, where he set several school records. He still holds a spot atop the Hoyas' career and single-season goal and points lists.
He then played a year and a half of professional soccer — including half a season in Chile — before hanging up his cleats for good.
“Playing in a foreign country, I went from 5,000 people being a huge crowd to 60,000 and front page of the newspaper type of coverage,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
McKnight now lives in Wilmette, Ill., with his wife, Adriane, daughter, Madelyn, and 4-year-old son, Evan. He works as a partner in equity options and derivatives at Hilltop Trading, but he's still never far from athletics.
That includes soccer coaching, where he says he does his best not to put too much pressure on his daughter.
“It really is fun to see her put on her cleats and uniform and get excited,” he said. “It's just special.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.