A crowd of 80,203 spec­tators chanted “USA, USA, USA” at Wembley stadium while watching the USA Women’s soccer team defeat Japan’s team, earning its third con­sec­utive gold medal. This exu­berant moment demon­strates that women’s soccer can build strong com­munity. But not here at Hillsdale College, where no varsity team exists.

Hillsdale has not offered a varsity soccer team since 2006. In Spring of 2011, women stu­dents formed a club team. Although the club pro­vides an outlet for those who wish to con­tinue their passion for the sport, the char­ac­ter­istics that sep­arate club and varsity teams sig­nif­i­cantly hinder the success of the program. Club teams have limited resources.

Fred Schebor, Asso­ciate Director of Admis­sions, said it is “hard to quantify” the number of stu­dents who choose not to attend Hillsdale to play soccer else­where. He said, “soccer is in the top two or three sports asked about by prospective stu­dents.” This sug­gests that Hillsdale could be losing stu­dents because of the lack of a soccer program, which is a dis­ad­vantage for the school’s admis­sions department.

Hillsdale College is one of only two schools in the GLIAC con­ference that does not offer a women’s varsity soccer program. Lake Erie, Ashland, Ohio Dominican, and other small schools in the con­ference all host varsity women’s soccer teams. When asked if offering a varsity soccer program would help recruit stu­dents, Schebor said, “Absolutely. We would welcome it … We lose ath­letes who want top tier soccer and aca­d­emics.” Hillsdale has top tier aca­d­emics, and could support a top tier soccer program.

Hillsdale empha­sizes its com­mitment to fos­tering com­munity by requiring every freshman to take an oath to become a valuable member of our campus at con­vo­cation. A varsity soccer team would be an excellent way to enrich com­munity and to live up to that promise.  Soccer Club Pres­ident Gena Oster explained, “A varsity soccer program would enhance com­munity within our school and bridge the gap between student ath­letes and those more aca­d­e­m­i­cally inclined,” Oster said. “Com­munity could be a lot tighter.  When fans come and gather to watch a game it really encourages com­munity and makes school spirit rise and stu­dents more pas­sionate about where we go and who rep­re­sents us.”

Hillsdale seeks to produce stu­dents who are pre­pared to lead a bal­anced, ordered life when they graduate. A varsity sports demands excel­lence from its par­tic­i­pants. It requires time man­agement and dis­ci­pline, qual­ities the college wants to cul­tivate in the student body. Oster agreed, “When you are a student athlete at the D‑II level, you have to have this men­tality that you can do it all; it is a struggle, but your team helps you and builds you up as you go. It pro­duces stu­dents who can seem to do it all and are very well put together after college.”

The women in the soccer club have done the footwork for cre­ating a varsity team. The admin­is­tration should take the next step and rein­state the varsity soccer program. This would help Hillsdale compete with similar schools for top stu­dents. It will also add to our college’s diverse offerings of activ­ities. Perhaps someday the sound of stu­dents cheering for the Charger soccer team will echo throughout campus, in cel­e­bration of our common desire for excel­lence.

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Macaela Bennett
Collegian editor-in-chief, Macaela J. Bennett grew up in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, Morton, Illinois. In May, she will join The Arizona Republic as a 2016 Pulliam Fellow, working at its News Desk reporting on Metro/Breaking News. In the past, she's interned for The East Peoria Times Courier, Campus Reform, The Town Crier, and The Tennessean. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, running, and cheering on the Cubs.