A Celebration of Excellence: 75 Years of Soccer at Franklin & Marshall

LANCASTER, PA -- In 1911, the reformation of the House of Lords took place in England and the Chinese Revolution was in full swing. Just eight years earlier, the Wright brothers delighted Americans with their flying successes and three years later, in 1914, the Panama Canal opened for navigation.

It was also in the fall of 1911 that Dr. Drexter W. Draper, along with student J.E. Imler, introduced organized soccer to the College community.

A professor, Dr. Porter, who played professionally in Canada for several seasons, served as coach for the first game on December 16, 1911 in a 2-0 loss against the Lancaster Young Men's Christian Association. During that same academic year, F&M played a second game on March 23, 1912 against the Lancaster Soccer Club falling 2-1.

From this meager two-game schedule against local club teams followed the first intercollegiate game (a 4-1 loss at home versus Penn State on December 16, 1912) and eventually the first intercollegiate soccer schedule (in 1926) against McDaniel (twice), Swarthmore and Delaware.

Historians and soccer purists will contend that Franklin & Marshall should be celebrating 86 years of soccer because, since 1911, only in seven years was soccer not played in some form of organized competition. However, it was in 1926 when the first "intercollegiate" varsity schedule was established, and since then in only three years (during World War II, 1943-45) was soccer not played every fall. Thus, the College is celebrating 75 years of intercollegiate soccer.

Through Hall of Fame athletic trainer Chuck Taylor's masters' degree thesis on The History of Intercollegiate Athletics at Franklin & Marshall College, an historical account of the team's tradition can be pieced together.

In the early days before intercollegiate soccer, F&M played in, and was instrumental in forming The Lancaster District Soccer League. From 1912 to 1917, Franklin & Marshall played in the league during the winter months against such teams as Yeates School, Mercury A.A., Linoleum Plant, F&M Academy and Lancaster Y.M.C.A. From 1917 (entry of the United States into World War I) until 1926, sporadic competition took place.

Led by student-coach P.N. Leibach, captain W. J. McComb, and other soccer fans, an intercollegiate schedule was adopted in 1926 when on October 29 F&M played McDaniel (then known as Western Maryland) as the Nevonians (as F&M teams were known until the Diplomatsmascot was adopted in the fall of 1935) fell 3- in Westminster, Maryland. The team lost again on November 3 at Swarthmore (score unknown) before defeating McDaniel 4-0 on November 10 in Lancaster and falling 1-0 against the University of Delaware on December 11.

After being led by student-coaches Leinbach (1926-27), D. Chambers (1928) and W.N. Sipple (1929), John Pyott became the first officially designated coach at Franklin & Marshall College in 1930. The 1930 team was the first to have a winning season finishing with a 5-3-1 mark. The 1930 season was also memorable in that the College joined the Middle Atlantic Conference, a relationship that Franklin & Marshall maintained until joining the Centennial Conference in 1993.

John Pyott's twin brother, Jim, coached in 1931, followed by students W. L. Osborn (1932), Robert Brillhart (1933-35) and R. A. Weitzel (1936-37). John Pyott returned the following year and F&M enjoyed the second winning season in program history in 1939 (7-5). The team caught fire going 6-4-2 in 1940 and 6-3-1 in 1941 under Pyott before his full-time employment obligations became too much in 1942. However, Pyott's tenure was the most successful up to that time as his teams finished 27-19-7 during his tenure.

In 1942, Richard Harral was appointed coach and led the team to a 2-3 mark. However, World War II temporarily extinguished soccer at Franklin & Marshall as no organized soccer was played on campus from 1943-1945.

After the war concluded, soccer was reborn at F&M under the leadership of George McGinness in 1946 with a 2-3 record. However, the needs of the football team (which was coming off a 3-4 record in 1946) were great, and McGinness moved onto being the line coach.

However, the loss of McGinness brought about possibly the most fortunate move in the history of the sport at the College, the hiring of local businessman and All-America soccer player from Springfield College, Robert Smith.

An F&M Hall of Fame coach in the sport, Smith led the team from 1947 until 1963. From 1955 on, an F&M graduate and soccer player, V. Nowell Hoover, assisted him.

During Smith's reign, Franklin & Marshall ruled the sport of soccer in the Mid-Atlantic region compiling a 99-57-12 mark with four Middle Atlantic Conference South championships (1950, 1951, 1952, 1962), one Middle Atlantic Conference championship (1952) and one national championship (1952).

In 1952, all 312 colleges and universities that competed in intercollegiate soccer were considered part of one division, and there were no national playoffs to determine a national champion; therefore, the coaches had, in essence, named Franklin & Marshall national champions. To win this extraordinary honor, F&M was rated ahead of such outstanding conference champions and regional powerhouses as Dartmouth, Army, Brooklyn College, Duke, the University of Baltimore, Oberlin, Earlham, and the University of San Francisco. The coaches were undoubtedly impressed by the fact that F&M had shut out six of its nine opponents, and had outscored its foes by 33-4.

In the MAC inter-division title playoff game, F&M blanked Swarthmore 2-0 for the first ever MAC soccer title in program history to cap a season in which they downed Lafayette (4-0), Drexel (4-0), Muhlenberg (1-0), Western Maryland (7-2), Gettysburg (4-1), Delaware (3-1), Bucknell (2-0), Ursinus (6-0) and Swarthmore (2-0).

Noteworthy is the fact that the 1952 team's national championship is recognized by both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), thus making them the consensus national champions.

Following the season, sophomore Carl Yoder was named a first team All-America, and Walt Lenz notched honorable mention All-America honors at goalie to become the first two F&M soccer players awarded All-America honors.

According to Richard W. Schmelzer, editor of the Official NCAA Soccer Guide, "The results of the 1952 season again served notice that excellence in soccer can be achieved by schools other than those with large enrollments. Little Franklin & Marshall College of the Middle Atlantic States Conference was named the outstanding college team in the country.

Historically, the squad is the only F&M soccer team that never lost a game as they finished 9-0 on the year and are one of only two national championship teams in the Colleges history joining the 1985 women's cross country team.

Smith attempted to lead another team to perfection in 1962 with an undefeated mark in regular season play (10-0), but the squad lost in the MAC Playoffs.

In honor of Smith's sportsmanship, class and talent on the sidelines, in 1978 Franklin & Marshall College and Elizabethtown joined to create the Smith-Herr Boot Trophy, a traveling trophy which commemorates the memories of Smith and long-time Elizabethtown Director of Athletics Ira Herr. The trophy is actually a soccer shoe worn by E-town All-America selection and former F&M coach Al Hershey.

Following the end of the "Smith Era" at Franklin & Marshall, longtime assistant coach Nowell Hoover took over the team in 1964. During his first year, his team was invited to the NCAA postseason playoffs with a 7-1-2 record. To date, the 1964 team is the only F&M men's soccer team ever to receive such an invitation, but hope springs eternal each spring that a return trip is only a few months away.

Hoover continued to have success leading the team to two more winning seasons in 1965 (5-3-2) and 1966 (6-2-2) before the Diplomats experienced the worst five-year stretch in school history with a record of 9-40-2 from 1967-1971.

Hershey replaced Hoover in 1972 and over the next nine years compiled a mark of 65-50-15. It was a time when soccer's growing popularity forced the MAC to divide the conference into two divisions, with each division (North and South) having East and West sections. Using this format, a sectional, divisional and overall conference champion could be determined. Further, the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) began to sponsor post-season competition for teams that played a strong schedule and had a noteworthy won-lost record.

During Hershey's tenure, the Diplomats won four straight MAC Southwest championships and on three occasions were invited to the ECAC South Regional Tournament. In 1973, F&M captured its first ECAC title as the team finished 8-4-2 with ECAC tourney wins over Kutztown (1-0) and Wilkes (2-1) to win the first post-season title since the 1952 team's national championship.

John Fellenbaum (1981-85) succeeded Hershey and did not suffer a losing season as the Diplomats went 46-30-6 during his tenure.

Since 1985, Franklin & Marshall has experienced more success as Larry Jones (1986-92, 57-66-6), Doug Harris (1993-97, 33-54-6), Chris Shinn (1998-99, 9-13-1), Dan Mendoza (1999, 2-1-1) and Andy Woolley (1999-2001, 24-18-0) guided the team. In 2001, the Diplomats regained their place among the elite soccer programs in the region earning a 12-5 record (the best in 20 years) and advanced to the ECAC title game.

More recently, Franklin & Marshall soccer has been on a continual up-swing as the 2002 team under current coach Dan Wagner (2002-present, 12-19-3) advanced to the Centennial Conference postseason for the first time and defeated #3 ranked Gettysburg 1-1 (4-3 penalty kicks) in the semifinals following a 2-1 win over the Bullets in the regular season to snap a 15-year losing streak to Gettysburg, before falling at Johns Hopkins 1-1 (4-3 penalty kicks) in the Centennial Conference title game.

But the history of the men's soccer program at Franklin & Marshall College tells only half of the sports tradition of excellence at the College.

In the fall of 1976, Franklin & Marshall joined Penn State and Villanova in becoming the first schools in the state of Pennsylvania to found women's soccer club soccer teams. Following a first series of seasons in which the team held its own, the College approved the promotion of women's soccer to varsity status for the 1980 season.

In the fall of 1980 the first F&M women's soccer team took to the field under head coach Frank Nelson (1980-83, 23-20-5) and defeated Bucknell (3-1) and Lehigh (4-0) before suffering their first loss to Penn State (7-0) on their way to a 6-2-2 record. The year was memorable for more than being the first season of varsity women's soccer, but also for the teams' victories and ties including Villanova (0-0 T), Swarthmore (2-0 W), Bucknell (3-3 T), Dickinson (4-0 W), Lehigh (3-0 W) and the University of Pennsylvania (2-0 W) with losses to the Nittany Lions and Princeton (3-0 L).

From that first team the history of women's soccer at F&M flourished as the team compiled an excellent 90-53-7 record under Nelson, Larry Wise (1984-86, 31-18-1) and G. W. Mix (1987-89, 36-15-1) during the 1980's.

The program experienced its best records under Mix as the team recorded an all-time best 16-3 record on their way to winning the 1987 MAC title before defending the championship with an 11-6 record in 1988.

In the first half of the 1990's, the Diplomats underwent six consecutive losing seasons with a record of 35-61-6 under Mick Means (1990-95). The team returned to its winning tradition in 1996 with a 10-7-1 mark under former Harrisburg Heat goalie Scoop Stanisic (8-6-0) and Erica Lutwin (2-1-1), and has experienced seven .500 or winning seasons under current coach Steve O'Day (1997-present, 80-42-7) since 1997. The all-time career wins leader in program history, O'Day guided F&M to six winning seasons from 1997-2002 while winning 10 or more games in each of those seasons.

In 1998, the team earned a spot in the ECAC championship game and in 2002 the team posted a 15-3-2 season, and a school record seventh consecutive double digit win season en route to the 2002 ECAC Mid-Atlantic Tournament Championship. Further, four-time All-Centennial Conference and three-time Adidas/NSCAA Mid-Atlantic Region midfielder Heather Rice, '03 made conference history as she became the first ever repeat Centennial Conference Player of the Year.

Like Rice, the success of Franklin & Marshall College soccer lies within the strength and talents who play the game. Hundreds of dedicated athletes have contributed to Nevonians and Diplomats' soccer, many of them achieving excellence as student-athletes including College Sports Information Directors' Academic All-America recipients Hayley Rintel '00 (1998, 1999), Janel Benson '00 (1998, 1999) and Scott Runyon '02 (2001). In other awards, five have received All-America honors: Walt Lenz '53 (1952), Carl Yoder (1952), Gerald Husted '58 (1956, 1957), Elizabeth Byrne '89 (1987, 1988) and Annemarie Merow '90. Many others have earned All-MAC and All-Centennial Conference recognition and regional honors.

Seventy-five years following the first intercollegiate varsity game, the future of Franklin & Marshall College soccer remains bright and on the up-swing.