For generations of college sports teams, the Homecoming game has represented the dedication to a culture of successful athletics and the support of college athletes, current and former alike. It is a chance to provide a place for alumni to come to observe the development of the program that they were once a part of and relive the experience of involvement.
This year’s Homecoming weekend at Knox, starting Friday, Oct. 27, will feature matches hosted by Prairie Fire volleyball and football, two of Knox’s 10 fall sports teams. Of the eight others, including men’s and women’s cross country, swimming and diving, soccer and golf, Knox men’s soccer was particularly vocal about their dismay toward their exclusion from hosting a Homecoming game, deeming it in a statement to TKS, “frankly, disappointing.”
Junior Justin Dunn, a goalkeeper for men’s soccer, has only experienced one Homecoming weekend at Knox so far. That came when the team hosted two games against Lake Forest College and Ripon College last year. “The atmosphere was great. That Lake Forest game was probably the most fun game of my career,” Dunn said.
In addition to the large number of fans present that weekend in support of the team, totalling nearly 200 at the Lake Forest game and 300 at the Ripon Game, Dunn explains that his enjoyment was not just about soccer. “I think it’s a scope beyond just athletics. Because a bunch of alumni come back and we do networking and we pay our respects to them … It really sucks to see that go away,” Dunn said.
As the midfielder for men’s soccer’s current team, senior Phelipe Graske wonders how the legacy of the program will carry on if soccer events continue to be absent from the Homecoming schedule.
“What am I going to come back to? I’m proud of the program and I’m proud of the guys, but give me more,” he said. “To be quite frank, it’s a really hard thing for us especially considering the legacy of family and development and success that we’ve built here.” Graske will graduate having only participated in one homecoming weekend in his four years at Knox.
Every year in the spring, Knox men’s soccer team hosts an alumni game, encouraging former players to come back and square off against their alma mater’s current team. Dunn and Graske agree, however, that while this game does facilitate alumni participation, it’s too little too late.
“Fifteen alumni come back,” Dunn said. “But they don’t get to watch us play a game,” Graske finished.
This year, men’s soccer will be hosted by St. Norbert in De Pere, Wis., during Knox’s homecoming weekend. Homecoming will feature, among other alumni events, an induction ceremony for the class of 1967, an event that Dunn and Graske are especially disappointed to miss.
“My freshman year, the class of ‘86 was inducted and we weren’t here,” Dunn said. “This year, the class of ‘67 is being inducted and we’re not going to be here. So we have to make awkward congratulatory videos on the bus that our coach sends [to them] after our game.”
While the team is disappointed, Graske believes that these kinds of setbacks will only improve the morale of the team. “I’m very proud of how our team has responded to numerous obstacles like these over the yearsÉ Challenges like these only bring us closer together and, at the end of the day, we are better for it,” Graske said.
Men’s soccer will play Cornell College on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. at Jorge Prats Field.