Soccer venue change alters atmosphere, attendance

TEMP ORARY November 18, 2011 0

The Marshmallow Bowl is among the biggest game every year in NCAA Division III men’s soccer. This was a large factor in deciding why I chose Elizabethtown College: to play soccer. The event is always a blood bath between two of the top teams in the Division III Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC): the Etown Blue Jays and the Messiah Falcons.

On my recruiting trip I was told stories by juniors Eric Carr and Ross Withrow of the games from the previous years. They told me of the roar of the crowd as both teams battled on the field and how fans battled in the stands sending chants for their schools back and forth, as well as the marshmallows that are continuously flung from the stands onto the field during the game.

I knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of as a Blue Jay. From the first day of preseason training, this game has been the topic of many discussions. We were all looking forward to it this year because it was scheduled to be at Etown, on our home field.

We have an amazing pitch out back by the Quads. It is a well-kept grass field that is both wide and long. It is the ideal field for soccer. Most soccer players including myself would rather play on grass than have to play on turf.

The week prior to the game, our team practiced on the old baseball grass field in order to prepare for our own grass field. Everyone on the team was so pumped to play Messiah at home. It was going to be our field, our crowd and our game. It even happened to fall on my birthday.

The night before the game, all of us made sure that we were not just physically but mentally prepared. Going to bed that night, all I could think about was the game and beating Messiah.

We were aware that there was snow on the way, but we kept a positive attitude, figuring that it would just start during the game and we would not have to worry about the game being cancelled. Waking up to snow on the morning of the game definitely had an effect on my view of the game.

With snow covering the field, we were unable to host the game at Etown. The game was changed to another day at a turf location. With the game not held at Etown, the Marshmallow Trophy Game would not live up to its reputation.

There were not as many people who could attend the game due to the large amount the snow. Also, since the game was not at a school venue, the students were prohibited from throwing marshmallows on the field. We knew that the snow was going to change these aspects of the game, but we weren’t going to let it kill the mood.

The minute we stepped into the locker room, we all were focused on not letting the snow change the way we played. We were all pumped up during the game; the entire bench was standing up, yelling and screaming, giving energy to our players.

The first half was going well. We were stringing passes together and had several opportunities to score. We just couldn’t find the back of the net. It looked like it was going to be a 0-0 game at halftime, until one slight mistake on a throw-in led to Messiah’s first goal. Even after the goal, we managed to keep our composure and finished off the half. At halftime all of us knew that we still had this game. They scored one goal off of a simple error when we managed to almost score three in the run of play. We came out of halftime with high heads.

The second half started off like the first. We were playing well and getting chances, but we simply could not get that last touch to drive the ball past their goalie. Late in the second half we began throwing numbers forward to get the tying goal. It was working. We had a great opportunity to tie the game up when Withrow laid a great ball off at the top of the box for senior Cameron Wyllie. He hit an absolute pill. As soon as he made contact we all had a feeling that this was the it, the goal to tie it at one.

Unfortunately, their goalie managed to get his body behind the ball and smothered it. This still did not stop us from attacking; we were battling like we had nothing to lose. Service after service, we kept bending balls into the box, trying to get a head on the ball to snap it into the back of the net. We managed to get a corner with a little over a minute left in the game. We threw everyone forward, hoping to crowd the box so the goalie could not come catch the ball clean.

One of their defenders got his head on the in-swinging ball and managed to clear it away; now it was off to the races. Their outside forward managed to win the ball and took off. He had a one-on-one with Carr and struck the ball well over his shoulder in the roof of the goal. We watched them celebrate as the clock ticked down.
The game was over; we had lost. The snow definitely had an impact on the game, but it was not the reason we lost. Having our home field advantage definitely would have helped us. Not only would it have helped having our whole crowd there for the game, but also playing on the field in which we had yet to lose a game.

We were so prepared to play Messiah at home that it just was not the same. Next year the game will be played at Messiah, and next year we have a shot to beat them on their own field with their own fans. We all will keep the feeling of defeat in the back of our minds, so when we are training in the off season and all next year, we will make sure that it will not happen again.

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