Love for Lori: Holmen Girls Soccer dedicating season to late coach Bembnister

The bond between coach and player is something special, especially when it develops over a long time.

When coach and player happen to be mother and daughter, it creates something even more unique, and it makes it that much harder when that time together comes to an end far too soon.

Lori Bembnister never hesitated to share her passion for soccer.

“It was like our life, honestly. I don’t think there was ever a weekend that we weren’t talking about soccer or playing soccer.”

The former UW-Eau Claire defender didn’t just pass it on to family. She reached practically every youth soccer organization in the Coulee Region.

“She included everybody. She treated them like they were her own daughter or son,” Lori’s daughter and Holmen junior Taylor Bembnister said.

And no group of athletes knew her longer or better than the girls currently suiting up for Holmen varsity.

“Most of these ladies started practicing with her, and their soccer careers and love for the game all started with Coach Lori,” said Holmen’s new head coach Yoshi Kogiso. “All of us dreamed about her being our [varsity] coach. So when the opportunity arose, all of us were like, you need to sign up for this job, you need to get this, we want you to be our coach in high school.”

They got their wish last year, with Coach Lori’s positivity and love of pre-game quotes following them to varsity.

“We used to do a cheer. It was NCE: Nothing Comes Easy…We always knew we had to fight and give it our all.”

That cheer always hit closer to home for the Bembnister family, because behind the scenes, Lori herself was fighting with everything she had.

“November of 2020 is when we started to notice she didn’t feel quite right. Food wasn’t sitting quite right with her.”

“They originally came back with celiac disease–like a gluten intolerance–and so that’s what we went with for a while…That’s when they ended up finding more.”

What doctors found was lymphoma. By fall of 2021, Lori had only been through one round of chemo, because it had burned a hole in her colon. She never got to round two.

“My dad, grandma and I were all in there with her, and we just continually told her we loved her, the memories we had. We ended up calling her siblings and my dad’s side of the family so they could give their final goodbyes. I just remember sitting there, holding her hand, giving her that last hug.”

Lori passed away at Gundersen on October 30, 2021. She was 45.

In the months leading up to this season, Taylor and her Holmen teammates decided that while Coach Lori may be gone, she will not be forgotten.

“I think the main thought that everybody was having was we have to play this season for Lori, and do it for her,” said Holmen senior Haley Radtke.

The team also wears lime green headbands, the official awareness color for lymphoma. They held a special ceremony after a game on Parents Night.

“We let a green balloon go for her, and we all signed it.”

And every single team breakdown, a dedication to their coach who taught them the game they love, and a promise to their teammate that no one walks alone.

“She was such a great person, and I’m glad she made such a big impact on so many people. We can carry her memories on.”

Taylor says they always talked about winning conference and making it to State. She knows her mom will be proud of this group no matter what as long as they keep playing with that 120 percent effort, but that hope to win at least one title for her is a big goal for this team.

Right now they’re just two points behind Central for first place.

Holmen will next play a non-conference tournament this Saturday at UW-Eau Claire. The tournament’s name? The Lori Bembnister Memorial Tournament.

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