After 33 seasons as the men’s soccer coach at Ohio Wesleyan, which have seen a list of accomplishments as long as your arm, there aren’t many firsts left for Jay Martin.
But when the Battling Bishops take the field in their season opener on Friday, it will mark the first time that Martin has scheduled his team to open its season out of state.
“We wanted to do something different, and this is the team to do something different with,” Martin says. “We knew we were going to Germany, so traveling shouldn’t be an issue for this team.”
Ohio Wesleyan opens its season this weekend at the Bob Baptista Invitational, hosted by Wheaton (Ill.) College, where Ohio Wesleyan will take on a pair of 2009 NCAA Division III tournament teams in Elmhurst and Wheaton. Ohio Wesleyan succeeded Wheaton as the NCAA Division III national champion in 1998, and the teams last met in the 2006 national semifinals, when the Thunder took a 1-0 decision in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“We had the opportunity to play two NCAA tournament teams in one weekend,” Martin says. “This should be a good challenge for the team and the seniors, and prepare them for the games down the road.”
One has to go all the way back to 1977—Martin’s first season at Ohio Wesleyan, when he took over for the late Fred Myers—to find the last time the Bishops opened out of Ohio. That year, Ohio Wesleyan kicked off the season with a weekend trip to DePauw and Wabash for the first-ever meetings against those schools.
The following season, Martin instituted the Fred Myers Invitational in memory of his predecessor, and that tournament has become one of the most competitive in NCAA Division III, traditionally drawing nationally ranked teams to Delaware for playoff-atmosphere soccer. Occasionally, during seasons when the September 1 starting date falls in the middle of the week before Labor Day, the Bishops have played teams such as Dayton and Cleveland State in their opener, but a 1986 trip to Cleveland has been the team’s longest season-opening sojourn.
For 2010, the Bishops’ two annual home tournaments, the Fred Myers Invitational and the adidas® Invitational, are continued during the second week of the season as the adidas®-Fred Myers Invitational.
Traditionalists need not fear, however. In 2011, the Fred Myers Invitational will return to the season’s first weekend, to be followed by the adidas® Invitational the next weekend.
Both of next year’s tournaments should provide excellent competition. Messiah (Pennsylvania), winner of 5 of the last 6 NCAA Division III championships, and Hamline (Minnesota) come to Roy Rike Field for the Fred Myers Invitational in 2011, while Wheaton (Illinois) and Carnegie Mellon, a final-16 NCAA tournament team in 2009, highlight the 2011 adidas® Invitational.