Perhaps more significant than what was taking place on the playing field was what was happening in the surrounding area.
Kelsey Yoder (#13) of EMU and Lucy Roth (#11) of Goshen vie for the ball in the women’s matchup that ended in a scoreless tie in double overtime.
Many people who hadn’t seen each other in years renewed acquaintances, cheered on student athletes, and in the process, saw stellar athletic competition in a setting billed as “a celebration of Mennonite higher education.”
The event: the EMU-Goshen College men’s and women’s soccer games, played this year on Sept. 15 on the new artificial- surface field at Lancaster Mennonite High School with some 2,000 alumni, friends and students in attendance.
According to organizing committee members Daryl Groff, Cliff Wenger, John Denlinger and Jim Smucker, the idea for the event was “to increase exposure for and highlight the quality of our five Mennonite Church USA colleges in hopes of inspiring our youth to consider them viable options for their college education.
“The future ministry and health of our church depends on the next-generation leaders that are developed at our Mennonite colleges,” the group stated. “This event is one way we can come together as a community to show our support for the wonderful gift our Mennonite schools are to our churches and communities.”
Goshen College won the men’s game, 4-1, breaking a longstanding drought against EMU. In the second game, the Goshen and EMU women battled to a 0-0 tie after regulation and two sudden-death overtimes.
“This [celebration] far exceeded expectations,” said David A. King, EMU athletic director. “It was an incredibly festive occasion, much like a family reunion.
“For many of us, the focus wasn’t as much on the games as on watching the people who came, seeing them reconnect with each other or meeting people for the first time,” King added.
He noted that the soccer games at Lancaster are part of a five-year plan to bring Mennonite colleges and major Mennonite communities together in supportive ways, adding that exploration is going on to hold athletic event in Ohio and the Franconia area of eastern Pennsylvania.
EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and Goshen President Jim Brenneman were in attendance, along with admissions and development staff members from both institutions, spreading the good news about their respective schools.
“Athletics offers us a starting point to showcase our institutions to a lot of folks,” said Ken Pletcher, Goshen College athletic director. “We had a great turnout this weekend, and I think both institutions were very pleased with the results both on and off the field.”
Over 400 people attended a post-game reception that included door prizes, refreshments and a question and answer session with players from both teams.