The Hillsdale College Men’s Soccer Club isn’t letting a canceled season ruin the 10th anniversary of the club’s re-formation, as it continues with regular practices and intrasquad scrimmages this fall.
The club is working to further its mission of encouraging a soccer atmosphere at Hillsdale and laying the groundwork to bring varsity soccer back to the college.
Hillsdale had a soccer team that turned varsity in 1998, but due to financial reasons, it was terminated in January of 2003 along with three other varsity sports. After this, a handful of former soccer players started a club team. Initially, the club team had a lot of support from soccer fans on campus, many of whom would travel with the team to away games.
The club team phased out within that decade, but it was officially restarted in 2010 with the explicit purpose of eventually bringing a varsity team back to campus.
According to the club’s vice president junior Matt McGrory, that goal had been forgotten when he arrived on campus in 2018. Since then, he and other members of the team have worked to revive the original mission and make the team a place for men to play soccer competitively.
In pursuing this goal, the club team moved into the Central Division of the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference this year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the MASC had to postpone its 2020 season until the spring.
Currently, the team conducts official team practices once a week, 5v5 tournaments on Fridays, open pickup games on Sunday evenings, and has even started hosting 11v11 intrasquad scrimmages once every other weekend.
“We wanted to make sure the guys are having at least one day of formal practice with the team in a competitive training nature,” McGrory said. “Then we have opportunities at the end of the week to drive competition within the guys on the team — to use an ‘iron sharpens iron’ philosophy.”
To increase intrasquad competition, the guys put money into a pool for the winners of the 5v5 tournaments.
The 11v11 scrimmages have even become a way for the campus to come together. So far, the team has hosted two scrimmages and both outdoor occasions have attracted groups of more than 100 students — which is more than the number of students that used to attend the team’s normal season games.
“The idea was to allow us to play competitively while also letting people come watch sports, because people miss that,” junior Aidan Cyrus said. “It’s a communal event where you get to go heckle and cheer people on, and enjoy watching your friends compete.”
McGrory said the large turnout at the intrasquad scrimmages has encouraged his teammates, giving them a glimpse of what a soccer atmosphere on campus could be like.
While the team takes the game seriously and is eager to improve the quality of the sport on campus, team members have also said it’s been a good way for them to make friends on campus.
“I don’t think I would know these guys if not for club soccer,” Cyrus said. “It’s given me a lot of joy. Especially the first year when I really didn’t know anybody, it was a great community to be a part of.”
Junior Ryan Perkins said the team maintains a good balance of having fun together and staying competitive.
“We love playing together, and we spend a lot of time together outside of practices and games too, but we try to keep it as competitive as possible,” Perkins said.
Perkins added that the program also keeps students from getting stuck inside the “academic bubble.”
“It’s really easy to just go from your dorm, to Lane Hall, to the cafeteria, to Lane, and then back to the dorm — kind of staying in that academic cycle,” Perkins said. “But club sports allow you to get outside, build friendships, and stay active.”