One of the world's most popular sports has been gaining popularity locally in recent years and Lincoln Trail College is looking to capitalize on that.
Coming on the heels of soccer fields being built in Robinson, LTC is set to do the same on their campus.
Two soccer fields, as well as a softball diamond (see story on front page) are set to be built in the near future on the campus of Lincoln Trail College, which will be the home to LTC's women's soccer program that is set to begin play in the fall.
"We saw it as an opportunity to grow our athletic program," LTC Athletic Director Kevin Bowers said. "Soccer is the fastest growing sport in America and we saw the need for it here. There are junior colleges across the country adding soccer and we wanted to be a part of it."
The addition of a soccer program part of the college's continued efforts to add more opportunities athletically for their students, as well as an attempt to increase enrollment. Previously, LTC brought back golf in 2013 and volleyball in 2014, but this is the first venture into soccer. They also hope it isn't the last, as there are plans to add men's soccer at some point in the future.
Although there are no other colleges in the immediate area that currently offer soccer, there are a handful of teams in Region 24 that do. Among those are Southwestern Illinois, Kaskaskia, Lewis & Clark, Parkland, Lincoln, John Wood, Illinois Central and Heartland. Kaskaskia and SWIC are in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference with LTC in other sports, while several LTC teams play many of those other schools in other sports.
As it stands right now, Lincoln Trail will begin playing women's games next season and the program will be under the direction of head coach Shawn Hall.
Hall, a native of Evansville that currently resides in Robinson, is a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana and is currently a first through fifth grade math teacher at Hutsonville Elementary School. He has an extensive soccer background, beginning when he was six years-old. Hall played club soccer for 10 years and also played at Reitz Memorial Catholic High School in Evansville. He spent time playing a variety of positions, including center forward, sweeper and right wing back.
Hall started playing again after college in both competitive and recreational leagues and continues to do so. He has also worked closely with the Robinson youth league and their travel teams to help those programs continue to progress forward.
As for his plans for the LTC program, he realizes there is a lot of work involved and knows success will not come overnight. However, he believes he can get the program up and running and competitive sooner rather than later.
"Right now, I'm doing a lot of traveling for scouting and recruiting purposes," Hall said in a press release. "First, I need to build the program and be ready for next fall. Second, we need to get the field up and in regulation. Once here and playing, I plan on making the ladies into even better soccer players by coaching them in high pressure, counter-attacking, wing play and possession soccer. I will make them better players so they can extend their careers after their two years at LTC. Last but definitely not least, I will continue to make sure they work hard in the classroom to prepare for the next stage of their college careers as well. I want to compete and win every game, but I will not sacrifice that for failure in the classroom. Academics is a top priority."
Bowers noted that Hall has the program progressing nicely, with two recruits already signed for next year.
"Any time you start a new program, things are going to be slow in the beginning," Bowers said. "But, coach Hall has dug his feet in and put in the work and now the recruits are starting to roll in."