Suffering a 4-13-1 overall record for the 2014 fall season, the varsity men’s soccer team will be drawing from its talented young reserves and freshmen recruits as several members will not be returning in the fall.
Amidst allegations swirling that the men’s soccer program had released a majority of its starters, head coach Russ Lawson declined to comment on the situation.
In a statement to the press, athletic director Lori Culler said, “We don’t discuss internal athletic team matters.”
She said that all students were in good standing at the university to continue their studies.
A source close to the team, however, confirmed that four varsity members will not be returning for the fall season. The reasoning behind their decisions included transferring schools and not meeting team requirements for chapel attendance or academic standing.
These players were released from the program in order to open up scholarships for incoming players, according to the source.
Overall, six players will be leaving the program.
One player is sophomore Scott Murray, who led the team with six goals during the 2014 fall season. Murray issued a statement on his social media accounts that he signed a letter of intent to play NAIA Division II soccer at Bluefield College in Virginia in the upcoming fall season.
Murray declined to comment about leaving the university’s program.
Senior Sam Thompson said the players leaving does not reflect Lawson’s endeavors to create a “culture” for the program.
“Coach Lawson is trying to create a culture to his liking, and he searches for that every year,” Thompson said. “He obviously makes decisions that he thinks will help the team. As a graduated player, I think that he worked his hardest to achieve that culture.”
Junior Lucas Lengacher said that part of this culture involves being held to certain standards.
“Starting preseason we have the mindset as a team of developing as players and a brotherhood,” Lengacher said. “When finding out players and our friends are leaving it’s upsetting, but those decisions were made for the best of the team. Part of being a good player is standing by your coach and your teammates and doing what is asked of you. We are playing for a higher cause – either Christ or the university itself – and this should be the forefront of the motivation of why we’re playing.”
Sophomore forward Brooks Gerke stands behind Lawson’s decisions, saying that he has the best of the team in mind.
“Coach Lawson did what he needed to do and what was best for the team,” Gerke said. “There are a lot more things outside of soccer affecting the retention rate of the team.”
Financial aspects related to recruiting were involved in the decision making, Thompson said.
“Coach had a vision of where he wanted the team,” Thompson said. “He is in charge of the financials and how that’s divided up amongst players. He’s doing it for the betterment of the team.”
Thompson said it does not matter if players are international students.
“I don’t believe that there is a direct correlation between the players that are leaving and whether or not they were international students,” he said. “I believe that there were unfortunate circumstances that could have happened to anyone regardless of international or domestic student.”
Lengacher said internationals have helped challenge the program’s soccer abilities.
“Excluding internationals would not be according with what the soccer program and Huntington University stands for,” Lengacher said. “HU has to offer the opportunity to help grow and mature players in both their character and beliefs as well as their soccer skills.”
Last year’s program graduated five players after the fall season so Lawson has fresh talent in his reserve squad. The junior varsity team boasted an 8-1-3 record while going undefeated to capture the first ever Crossroads League Reserve Tournament at Bethel College in November 2014.
The team continues to press on, unrattled by rumors. Lawson’s crew competed in an indoor six v. six tournament at Taylor University Feb. 22 against host Taylor, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Spring Arbor University.