Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
You are the voice. We are the echo.
The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo
DSC01944 (1).jpg

Trojans overseas: A trip to always remember

TU men's soccer went to Northern Ireland

“Our endgame is to disciple our players, to build team chemistry, team bonding and to get us in game-fit for the season,” Gary Ross, Taylor’s men’s soccer head coach, said.

Ross has been taking the team on a trip to Northern Ireland almost every summer since 2005. He has always been surprised by the outcome of opportunities that his athletes can grow towards. 

“I am always surprised by the opportunities we have, and how the Lord works in things to impact our team and those we’ve come to engage with,” he said. 

He spoke heavily on team bonding, and how he can take his squad to a completely different culture that a player or person is not familiar with, and see how impactful it is on them. 

In Northern Ireland, soccer is played in a different style than in the United States. They focus on thee ground game, including more footwork, and sliding. Conversely, the Americans play more with their upper body, using more arms and shoulders. 

Ross has found this to be an excellent opportunity to building physical toughness for his players entering the season. Of those who are familiar with the different style of play, is junior transfer student Jordan Devlin. Devlin is from Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, just an hour away from where the team was staying. 

Coach Ross was able to secure Devlin as a new player. He is the first Northern Irish player the team has been able to get on the roster, and without any true recruitment. Devlin reached out to the coach and found Taylor to be the right fit. 

“When I had the meeting with Coach (Ross), I wanted to buy into what he was telling me,” Devlin said. “It was a really personal conversation. He didn’t want to know me as a soccer player. He wanted to know me as a person, to know my family and my background.” 

During the time the team spent in Ireland, the Trojans played several matches. Devlin’s family made a few appearances to see him and came out to watch. 

“It was really nice (to see family). They haven’t seen me play in two years,” he said. “They were taking days off work to be able to come see me, so it meant a lot for them as well.” 

Devlin was able to finally score in front of his friends and family during the last game of the trip. He said it was like a dream come true. Once done, he ran over to them and gave hugs to all, showing appreciation to those who came out. 

Senior Matt Harrold has been on the team now for four years and has gone on the trip since his freshman year. He has always felt fortunate to see the team experience such a powerful trip. 

“Here was a team of 30 players, some who have never met each other and some who have,” Harrold said. “Yet we were with each other for a few hours and then left to go to another country. The trip really put us closer together.” 

Harrold spoke on Devlin’s experience living in Northern Ireland, in that it really opened the eyes of teammates to how life is lived in another country. Since coming back from Northern Ireland, he has had some time to reflect on his growth, not just as an athlete, but as a person. 

“It feels weird to be a senior but it’s nice to able to share my experience with the team now,” he said. “From my freshman year, I have seen how the team has pushed me to be a better man.”

The trip impacted a multitude of aspects of the lives of players. For junior Sam Spiegel, it was about the bonding and getting closer with his teammates. 

“We are really really close and interested in each others lives, as brothers and not just teammates,” Spiegel said. “We also really trust each other and enjoy spending time together, so the chemistry we have is a huge product of that trip.” 

Spiegel gave praise to having Devlin on the team, as he spoke a wealth of knowledge about the area the team stayed in. Even during some matches, he was fortunate to play with him.

“It was great, we knew he would be effective right away in helping us win,” Spiegel said. “It felt like we had an undercover agent from our opponents’ own country that (helped) us win against them.”  

The Trojans play Lourdes on September 19, followed by Saint Francis (Ind.) on September 23, both are at home in Turner Stadium.