By Emma Grimes / Athletic Communications Assistant
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Covenant women's soccer has a storied history of success. After coming off a successful 2019 season and a USA South Championship match appearance, many were looking forward to another successful season on the mountain.
But 2020 has brought many unforeseen events. Amid the disappointment of a postponed season, it is obvious that the pandemic has taken much from the team, but the COVID-19 pandemic can't take the family atmosphere the program has created.
Family is everything. That is especially true to the women's soccer program and head coach Mark Duble, who is entering his 27th season as the only head coach in program history.
"Because our definition of success is based on the growth of the whole person, family atmosphere is everything to this team," said Duble. "Our girls treat each other like they are all sisters, and that speaks a lot to how we actually operate."
Sophomore goalkeeper Lucy Sandhoff echoes this importance, noting that she doesn't just play with teammates -- she plays with her sisters in Christ.
"We act more like a family than teammates in the way that we pray and care for each other and invest our time into one another's lives," emphasized Sandhoff. 'While winning games and conference championships is our number one goal as a team, we work towards that goal by honoring and glorifying God in everything we do and say, on and off the soccer field."
This importance of being a family is greatly cultivated by the upperclassmen, who make it a priority to welcome new freshmen into the program.
One such freshman, Riley Amell, believes that this leadership is crucial to the team's cohesiveness on and off the pitch.
"Having team chemistry and creating a family atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of the women's soccer team here at Covenant. There is nothing more comforting than knowing your teammates have your back and are always willing to support you.
"One main goal that we try to achieve is to incorporate our sisterhood, that is cultivated off the field, into the game that we are playing. The team is very willing to get to know you. As freshmen, it can be very difficult to navigate through everything going on, and every girl on the team has made it an easier transition for us all."
The Scots have developed many traditions in order to cultivate this family atmosphere. For instance, before every game, the team recites the team verse (Titus 1:2) and sings "The Round," a short song that has been a long-standing pre-game ritual.
Sandhoff credits these traditions with helping the team prepare for every game and focus their attention on Christ.
"Winning is super fun and important when playing a sport, but loving each other well and glorifying God through all that we do is what matters most to us."
Like Amell, Sandhoff also is grateful for the role that upperclassmen play on the team.
"One of my other favorite traditions is going to the new seniors' houses every year and hearing them give their testimonies," continued Sandhoff. "Since it feels like we are one big family, it's easy to forget that each person has a different story. So it's inspiring to hear how God has worked through each person's life and how He brought them to be a part of our family for a reason."
Family isn't just a value that the team holds as an internal standard. The families of players are also heavily involved in the culture of the program.
Assistant coach Rachel Lemay, who was a four-year standout goalkeeper for the Scots, acknowledges much of the uniqueness of the team to parent and family involvement.
"For us, parent and family involvement is a key aspect of our team. I think it is something that makes us unique and adds to our culture. Since we have girls from all over the country in our program, it has been incredible to see parents and families who live locally rally around our girls far from home and offer a place to relax or a home-cooked meal."
Bryan Amell, Riley's father, is one of those parents who is far away as he lives in Florida. He credits Covenant with making sure his daughter is safe and for involving the family in the recruiting process.
"As a parent, we were always looking for a program that Riley would benefit from spiritually and athletically. We know Covenant is that place," said Bryan. "The first time we visited Covenant was her sophomore year in the fall, and it seemed like every year after that we sent her to at least one camp. I think for Riley, as well as us, it was a place we immediately gravitated towards, and I truly believe she wanted to go to Covenant from the first trip she made. It really was an easy choice for her and us for her to attend Covenant."
Sandhoff's father, Jeff, also confirms this family involvement in the program. Jeff works at Covenant as Regional Director of Development and is, therefore, part of the local family on the mountain.
"I would say we are very happy with our decision," explained Jeff. "We love the faithful community that she gets to be a part of–the community that keeps pointing her to our Lord and Savior. We had the team over for dinner, and it was great to get to know the girls a little and to watch them at the end of the night pray and sing together. That is what you want your child to be a part of as a parent!"
FAMILY UNTIL THE END
There is no doubt that the Scots have had great success on the soccer field. According to Duble, though, most players' favorite memories are the ones that happened off the field.
"At the end of their careers here, our girls rarely talk about wins, championships, or the games that got away. Most conversations rotate around each other and the relationships they have built in the dorms, on the bus, on mission trips -- relationships built living and growing in this Covenant community."
This is what makes the women's soccer program unique -- the sisters of Scotland Yard remain family until the end.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTS
Be sure to follow the Scots all season long on athletics.covenant.edu and on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for up-to-date scores, news and other information. To receive e-newsletters, click here