The Eastern Mennonite School boys varsity soccer team played its 1,000th game on Thursday, Sept. 29 with a home game against New Covenant Schools which ended in a 1-1 draw. Alumni of the boys varsity soccer program were especially invited to the game.
“This milestone is a celebration of not only boys varsity soccer at EMS, but our whole athletic program,” said Andrew Gascho, athletic director. “Athletic competition, coupled with whole student development, has been a value at EMS since the beginning and especially at the level of play we have now for more than 50 years.”
Head coach Ryan Eshleman-Robles ’09 was a player in the late 2000s and was part of the school’s first state-championship boys varsity soccer team in 2007. He acknowledges the role his coach, Kendal Bauman, played in his own development and that of the program over a 21-year coaching career.
“We would not be able to recognize our 1,000th game if it weren’t for Coach Bauman’s meticulous research and record keeping over his long tenure,” said Eshleman-Robles. “I’m so grateful to be able to continue to build the program he picked up from previous committed coaches Eric Martin and Ron Koppenhaver.”
Koopenhaver coached from 1967 till 1979. Eric Martin graduated from EMHS in 1972 and returned as athletic director, teacher and coach in 1979, where he stayed until departing for Western Mennonite School leadership in Oregon, in 1992. Read an article about Martin’s tenure in the May 28, 1992 Windsock here by Andrew Zapanta ’93. Back in Harrisonburg and enjoying retirement, Martin now serves on the school’s Alumni Board.
Kendal Bauman coached from 1992 to 2012, also serving as athletic director, assistant athletic director, health/PE teacher, and in recent years, as elementary PE teacher. In 2002 he helped to launch EMHS girls soccer program. In the fall of 2021, Bauman helped the school mark the 50th boys soccer invitational tournament, the Menno Classic previously known as Bollingbrook and St. Vincent invitational tournaments ). Read about the alumni soccer game organized by Bauman for Homecoming 2021.
Ben Roth Shank picked up the reigns from Bauman in 2013, coaching through the 2016 season. He led the team to the VISAA D2 championship game in 2015 and was named Virginia Independent Conference coach of the year. That team finished with a 14-4-2 record and were 9-1-1 in the VIC.
The 1,000 game celebration
The 1,000th game was be celebrated in several ways. The first one was visual. Prior to the game, Gascho and Coach Eshleman-Robles invite students to join the team to “plant” 1,000 flags along the fan line to help players and fans visualize what this milestone really means.
The flags included the wins (blue), losses (grey) and ties (yellow) over the era. At the beginning of the 2022-23 season, those stats included 731 wins, 207 losses, and 48 draws.
Program alumni were invited onto the field at half time for recognition and a friendly penalty kick competition with T-shirt prizes for those who hit the upper 90 successfully.
Following the game, players, families, and alumni players and families enjoyed sub sandwiches and cake provided by the Flames Booster Club.