By: Harry Loomis
Kansas State is a Division I university in one of the most competitive athletic conferences in the nation.
They have an enrollment of 21,719 people, over four times the size of Missouri Western’s enrollment. On Sept. 22, a group of 17 Missouri Western students ranging in age from mid-20’s to myself, a freshman, took the field at Spratt Stadium for a soccer game against Kansas State.
What many Griffon players admitted was going to be a blowout turned out to be the exact opposite The team played with a heart of champions. The game was chippy and physical with three yellow cards and one red card handed out in the game. The Griffons walked off the field that day sore, bruised and with a 3-2 victory.
The team rang the bell and celebrated their deserved win. Immediately after the game, word spread around the school. By the time the players had made it back to their rooms, they were getting congratulatory texts left and right. The club immediately had twice the attention and recognition that they have ever had in their three year existence. This positive momentum hasn’t slowed down since then, and the timing seems perfect. It’s time for Missouri Western to start a men’s soccer program.
The soccer club – now in its third season – is run by Konner Wilson and Brennan Weed. The club finished their season on Sunday, wrapping up play with a 2-6 record after playing six games against major Division I schools. The team has a fairly set practice schedule, which was not easy to attain. Our club gets practice time every Monday and Tuesday night at Spratt at 8:30, and every Wednesday in the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex at 8:00 p.m. Wilson and Weed have put a lot of time and effort into making this club work, and the school is in a good place to take this club to the next level – a program.
From a personal standpoint, I could not be more fortunate to have found this team. I came to Missouri Western knowing one other person, and I usually have a hard time meeting new people. Seeing Weed at the event’s fair on the first day was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. From the first practice on, I grew closer with the team and couldn’t wait to go to practice each day. It didn’t matter that I’m a freshman and most of the team is in their 20’s. We were just playing soccer and having fun. In just two months, the team has developed a close bond with one another that wouldn’t have been possible if this team didn’t exist.
In the most unbiased way I can describe it, the team does not get much support, but we grind to make each and every game. With a team budget of just $1,000, the team was able to field a team, rent out one van every game, sometimes two and drive to Kansas University, Kansas State, Wichita State and Wayne State. With $1,000 and 6,000 students at our school, we were facing some schools that were over five times our size that were also fully backed by their school. The team didn’t win any of those games, but we still went every time because it was the only way we were able to play the sport we love anymore. It is time for our school to embrace men’s soccer.
The school is starting to make progress towards adopting a program. The requirement for a club is four years before becoming a program, and the team just finished its third year. Weed describes the team as a traveling team more than a club. This is because we have a competitive schedule and go against bigger competitive schools.
In the state of Missouri, there are five Division II universities that have a soccer program. They are Drury, Missouri – Saint Louis, Rockhurst, Missouri S&T and Southwest Baptist. This would give Missouri Western an opportunity of a growing sport. Soccer is becoming increasingly popular in both Kansas City and St. Louis especially. A growing sport means more kids looking to play at the next level.
From personal experience, the really good players I’ve played with have either gone Division II or small Division III to schools like Rockhurst, Webster and Fontbonne. This could give Missouri Western a unique opportunity to attract a new group of students and could set the stage for a fun local rivalry with Rockhurst and join the Great American Conference to play MIAA schools like Fort Hays State.
There is no downside to adopting a men’s soccer program. While it can’t happen immediately, it does seem as though the right progress is being made. I am optimistic that I will see the Missouri Western men’s soccer team take the field by the time I graduate.