York College soccer team makes emotional return after player's death

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

GRANTHAM — Coaches are used to dealing with wins and losses. The typical routine is to dissect game film, identify areas to improve upon and practice on getting better.

There is no routine, however, that could prepare the York College men’s soccer team and head coach Evan Scheffey for anything like what they experienced this past weekend — the death of beloved teammate Drew Ruehlicke.

“Nothing could have ever prepared me for this moment, this event, as a coach or as a man or as a parent as well,” Scheffey said. “I’ve just tried to be transparent with the guys. They’ve seen me more emotional and crying the past couple of days than they have ever, so I just tried to be transparent and as honest. I told them I don’t have all the answers.”

York College men's soccer drapes Drew Ruehlicke's jersey over the bench during Tuesday's match. The Spartans were playing for the first time since Ruehlicke's death over the weekend.

The team learned of Ruehlicke’s passing on Saturday morning, the same day they were slated to travel to play Mary Washington. The loss left everyone with questions about what to do next. The contest with MWU was rightfully postponed, but more than a few wondered what to do next. Should they postpone more games, or even cancel the season?

Ruehlicke’s mother gave Scheffey and the team direction to guide the way.

“She just said to play,” Scheffey said. “Drew would have wanted us to do that.”

Taking on rival Messiah, who entered the night No. 2 in the nation in NCAA Division III, the Spartans hung tough Tuesday evening, holding the Falcons scoreless for much of the first half. Even with the extra inspiration to play for their teammate, the visiting Spartans were unable to pull off the upset, falling 4-0.

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While the setback was a disappointment, the way Scheffey’s squad came together and played under the circumstances made the eighth-year York College coach proud. The Spartans nearly held the high-scoring Falcons without a goal in the first half, a feat the majority of Messiah’s opponents have failed to accomplish.

“Being just four days since Drew’s passing and the tragedy that is, I think that just puts soccer in perspective,” Scheffey said. “Yeah, we want to win every game, but the fact that we were out here tonight together and doing everything they could to put their best foot forward and compete was all that I could have wanted them to do.”

The sentiment was the same from Ruehlicke’s family.

Members of the York College and Messiah men's soccer teams stand before Tuesday's match in Mechanicsburg. The Spartans were playing for the first time since the death of junior Drew Ruehlicke.

“Ultimately, that’s what Drew’s mom told us that she wanted to see from us,” Scheffey said. “She wanted to see his legacy live on through this team and to keep working and fighting for each other.”

Ruehlicke’s No. 14 jersey was draped over the Spartans' bench throughout the contest to commemorate their teammate. A moment of silence was held before kickoff in Ruehlicke’s honor and both teams came together afterwards for a prayer on the field.

“(Messiah) coach (Brad) McCarty and I talked about that before the game,” Scheffey said of the huddle. “He said that his guys wanted to pray for us and try to support us and Drew’s family. Class is the only word to describe their program. Obviously they are an elite team on the field, but how their guys conduct themselves … I can’t say how much I appreciate how far they’ve gone to support us.”

That support has also shown up on campus, as the York College community has banded around the team.

“The outpouring of support from the campus community, the coaching community and everybody else has been overwhelming in such a positive way,” Scheffey said. “It’s taken a village, but day by day, the support that we’ve received has been unbelievable.”