Trendsetters: 1998 Women’s Soccer team celebrated during Legacy weekend
Trinity CommunicationsSeptember 27, 2018
On Saturday, Sept. 22, the Trinity soccer program honored its 1998 NCCAA Women’s Soccer National Championship team during its Legacy weekend event. The celebration marked the team’s 20th anniversary of their championship victory over Indiana Wesleyan 1-0.
Women’s soccer alumni were commemorated both during the Legacy weekend soccer games and after the games in a special celebration dinner. The 1998 team received special attention during halftime of the 2018 women’s soccer team game against Judson University, where Trinity pulled out a 3-0 victory.
Alumni from all walks of life came back to Trinity starting Friday afternoon, with the women’s soccer alumni invited to the end of practice to train alongside the 2018 women’s soccer team. The four alumni who came played on the field with current team members and shared stories from their experiences with the soccer program.
“I vividly remember putting in hard 3-a-days during training camp and my hamstrings hurting to the touch. I remember listening to chapters from Wooden…I remember singing praise songs in the vans on the way to our away games,” Class of ‘99 women’s soccer co-captain and center back Melissa Erickson said in a recent letter. “I remember the time [Coach Gilliam] put up with me having my daughter at an away game in the van because I had no sitter.”
The festivities continued early Saturday morning with a soccer and tennis tournament for alumni. The current soccer teams prepared for their games against Judson University later that afternoon, and alumni were invited to take part in the teams’ pregame devotions.
During halftime of the women’s soccer game, eight alumni from the 1998 women’s team along with women’s soccer head coach Patrick Gilliam and associate head coach Kelvin Tohme were recognized for their time with the soccer program and their 1998 championship victory.
After both soccer games ended, alumni enjoyed a dinner reception and another opportunity to share in reminiscences from their days with the team. Although the event ended around 6 p.m., Gilliam said he and the women left Trinity near 9 p.m., continuing to laugh, catch up, and simply sit around talking.
Both Gilliam and Tohme have been with the women’s soccer program since before 1998. For Gilliam, the 1998 team was particularly special because he had only just started coaching at Trinity when the team had their victory at the NCCAA championships.
“This was the second year [I] coached here,” Gilliam said. “They were the first team to make a national tournament. They were the trendsetters… we weren’t the best team on paper there, and yet that team was made up of a lot of gritty, hardworking players who really played above their talent level.”
Erickson, who graduated with her B.A. in Biology/Pre-Med, has vivid memories of Gilliam when she first met him at the beginning of his career with Trinity.
“I remember the first time I saw [him], sitting in the bleachers, looking like a new player for the men’s team,” Erickson said. “[He] had much more set up for practices and the off-season than I had ever known…senior year, I came back ready for the best season of my life.”
Now, coaching for his 22nd season with the Trojans, Gilliam currently has the second-highest active winning percentage in the NAIA. In addition, Tohme is currently in his 25th season of coaching.
After the 1998 championships with NCCAA, the women’s soccer team continued onto a number of other championships. Meghan (Cox) Collins, who graduated in 2002 with her B.A. in Elementary Education, was the 1998 team’s starting goalkeeper. During her senior year, she and the team competed in the 2001 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship.
“I still get goosebumps thinking about that game,” Collins said. “Even though we lost that game, it was the best game I had ever played in my life. The heart our entire team put forth is unparalleled.”
Although the Legacy weekend celebration provided a means to honor the 1998 team and celebrate soccer program alumni, those who attended focused more on appreciating their time as part of soccer at Trinity.
“Soccer was the one thing that I loved that stayed constant through my life, but there was more than just the playing. The physical fitness and soccer skills were the hard skills. [Gilliam] coached those, but [he] also developed the soft skills,” Erickson said. “Being coachable, teamwork, transitioning in and out of leadership, commitment to excellence, perseverance, supporting your teammates—these are all soft skills that make a good soccer player great…these are the tools I use on a daily basis with my team in the operating room, in the clinic, in my family, in my marriage, and in my personal walk with God.”
“The program as a whole—each practice, game, team devotion, scouting report, voicemail, friendship, win, and loss—is what made my time playing at Trinity so incredibly special,” Collins said. “I am so proud to be able to say that we won the national tournament in 1998, but I am more proud to say that my relationship with the Lord was molded and shaped in such a way that has helped me be who I am today.”