With the fall semester coming to an end, Principia College concludes another active and successful athletic season. There are many great and dedicated coaches, players, runners, trainers, and sports lovers on campus, who enrich the College with high-class physical competitions and activities, but also raise Principia’s moral and spiritual bar on a constant basis. Sadly, it is not possible to profile every fall athlete in this article, but the few examples of outstanding achievement and commitment below can be seen as a sample of the quality of Principia’s athletic department this fall.
Finishing the season with an outstanding record, Principia’s women’s soccer team has certainly kept the campus cheering for many weeks. Making it to Nationals for the third time in four years, the women have proven dedication and professionalism on the field. The season was also Jess Semnacher’s debut as head coach.
Semnacher told the Pilot the secret behind the team’s success: “The thing is: I’ve got great players. And that is really the reason that we are successful – not anything that I do, necessarily.” He added: “One of the keys for this year’s success is that we had some really great leadership throughout the whole team. The three team captains [Alicia Girbes-Pierce, Lauren Wienecke and Hayley MacWilliams] in particular did a great job reaching out and helping the younger players. Overall, we were successful because we had a great sense of patience, joy, and an expectation of excellence.”
Captain and senior Lauren Wienecke said she appreciated the spiritual basis of the team and the players: “[With CS] we had such a foundation that was so strong, that we could just build so high. There was just such love and joy constantly streaming through everybody, that I just felt like our purpose was more than just to be good soccer players, but to be good people out [on] the field.”
Captain and senior Alicia Girbes-Pierce also spoke about the presence of spiritual thought in games and practices: “Every day, just being out on the field, I think that team expresses all of God’s qualities … It is just so effortless to express these qualities when you are surrounded by a team full of loving women who love God and each other. The love on the field is always so apparent.”
Fellow senior Megan Carothers, who just completed her fourth year on the team, shared her own insights: “Our team expresses such a strong sense of sisterhood … I have never been on a team where we have all been so ‘in-tuned.’“ She continued: “The support is incredible. When a player goes down on the field, there is instantaneous Love and Truth surrounding that player. Our team always jokes around about how at our weddings the audience is going to be the entire team, but it is true. We have formed life-long friendships.”
Principia’s men’s soccer team impressed the community with its strong sense of brotherhood and physical and spiritual readiness.
Senior Samuel Thomas, a goal keeper and one of three team captains, explained the team dynamic, which was not only important in games, but also in the players’ daily lives: “I love my teammates and coaches. Every person on the team has an impact on myself, other teammates, the season, and my life outside of soccer.” Thomas also explained his love for the sport in the following way: ”What I love about soccer is the competitive challenge it puts before me. Every person out on the field is trying to beat you and you have to be competitive enough to deny them that pleasure … So defying the odds, having my teammates backs like I know they have mine, and disappointing the opponent is what I live for.” Thomas also appreciated Christian Science during his work as a competitor and as an individual: “Christian Science plays a huge role in my experience as an athlete. Especially here at Principia College, metaphysical preparation is just as important as physical preparation.” In light of the fact that he and several others will be graduating in May, Thomas sees the importance of taking Christian Science with him into future adventures and challenges: “When playing for a soccer team not affiliated with Principia, it is even more important that I stay firm in my understanding of the falsity of matter because the argument of error presents itself even stronger. I have to be an ambassador of Christian Science and Principia wherever I play soccer…”
With 15 runners receiving Conference All-Academic Team recognition, this season has been another successful one in the history of Principia’s cross country team. Winning the conference meet, the men’s cross country team achieved a long-time goal, while the women’s team ranked second only after Webster’s runners. Sophomore Wylie Mangelsdorf made it into Nationals for his first time and received All-Midwest honors together with senior Drew Clark. For the women’s team, junior Casey Powell made it into the All-Midwest Region team as well.
Coach Chuck Wilcoxen was extremely satisfied with the season, and is already excited to see where the team will go in the future. He talked about both team’s achievements: “I think our greatest successes came during moments that few were able to see and even fewer are able to know. Every time a runner fights back against the notion that they should slow down, or quit, represents the greatest success … It is never easy, but it is so much fun.” Wilcoxen then added: “I love how the team(s) care for each other. They are very smart about each others’ needs … much smarter than I am. I love their generous spirits. They are very funny… lunatics, really. I love to hear them laugh at and with each other.”
Junior Casey Powell said she loves being part of the team. Having finished many races with excellent ratings, Powell spoke from experience when she shared ideas about overcoming limitation and the importance of having a great team: “I am really inspired by all the hard work that everyone puts in every day, all the time and dedication. There is something about seeing your teammates run, that pushes you and makes you want to go faster.”
Like Powell, Mangelsdorf underlined the importance of the team’s family spirit: “The main thing I love about cross country is the team and how the team becomes a second family. If someone is ever struggling with something in running or school work, or just something personal, they could always look straight to a teammate and get all the support that is needed and trust that it will stay between the two of you … It is such a loving atmosphere to be in.” Commenting on his motivation, Mangelsdorf also shared: “What inspires me to perform well is simply the fact that when I am running I am getting to show my gratitude and the fact that I am running to glorify God.”
The Principia College volleyball team experienced a very unique season. With only one senior and four freshmen on the team, Coach Mary Ann Sprague went into the fall season with a very new team. Overall, the team finished strong with a 19-19 record and a series of impressive games against very strong teams. In an interview recorded in early November, Mary Ann Sprague shared: “We started out this season […] coming up with our group foundational pillars, and the girls together came up with spiritual growth, sisterhood, and all-out as their promises to each other. We also decided to not have any captains this year. With this small, new group we wanted 100% ownership, and I think they are working towards that nicely.” The volleyball team demonstrated talent, team spirit and a clear determination to scale up. Sophomore Christine Nacewicz shared of her experience this season: “We had such an amazing season! We started out as a completely new team so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but we were able to bond right away and focus our goals down to sisterhood, all out, and spiritual growth.” Like other Principia teams, the volleyball team also emphasized the importance of a metaphysical foundation for their games and practices. Nacewicz, who also serves as All-Campus Meta Head, shared: “As far as the Christian Science aspect of the game, before practice every day we would have metaphysical time and the girls could share quotes, articles, passages; anything that has inspired them. At the end of practice we would have an opportunity to express who or what has inspired us throughout the practice.”