The Mills College soccer team fought tooth-and-nail in their long-awaited showdown against Menlo College on the Saturday before last. The game was the first between the two schools since last year’s match in which a Menlo soccer player directed homophobic, racial and sexist remarks towards Mills athletes.
Sophomore co-captain Leslie Neill said that this year, the Cyclones readied themselves for a potential repeat of last season, but instead found themselves playing a different, “much nicer team.”
According to Neil Menlo’s team has a new coaching staff, half of this year’s team is new and the soccer player who was the primary instigator of the homophobic comments graduated.
“This year, someone knocked down Maya and helped her up,” she said. “Last year that would never have happened.”
Last year, in response to the homophobic and racial remarks, the Mills college soccer team took action to introduce and pass NCAA legislation that bans derogatory behavior during sporting events. Athletic Director Themy Adachi said that Mills athletes and supporters will also be held accountable to these rules and are expected to act in a positive manner at all of the athletic events.
“Having fought so hard we would hope that our students and athletes would model [inclusivity].”
Many Menlo parents said they were unaware or knew very little of last year’s confrontations. Jim Hannon, father of Menlo freshman Kelsey Hannon, said that although he was not familiar with last year’s incident, he was “all for not having that kind of talk, that’s for sure.”
Sarah Cunningham, a Mills supporter, said she and other supporters had planned to dress up in stereotypical lesbian attire in answer to Menlo’s homophobic remarks from last season but decided against it at the last minute. “We were gonna gay-it-up basically, not to alienate the other team or to show that the team is totally gay because that’s not who we are either. But just to show [Menlo] that it doesn’t matter.”
The game was preceded by an announcement by Mills’ Compliance and Sports Information Director Elese Lebsack who requested that athletes, staff and supporters practice good sportsmanship
“Profanity, degrading comments, or other intimidating behaviors directed at officials, student-athletes, coaches, team representatives or spectators will not be tolerated and are grounds for immediate removal from campus,” she said.
All parties were on their best behavior however, as the Mills soccer team flew through the air, slid in the mud and valiantly weathered numerous collisions to battle their way to a hard-fought 0-8 loss.
Mills’ fans cheered on the Cyclones with enthusiasm. When shouts from the bleachers lagged, the Spirit Squad jumped in and led the crowd in a few cheers. “Dude, we love this team,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t matter how well they do because they work so hard.”
At half time Mills’ mascot, the Cyclone, ran onto the field and entertained both Menlo and Mills supporters with a jig, a clumsy goal and numerous high-fives.
Fans laughed and cheered as the furry blue, carrot-shaped mascot with the thick bushy eyebrows and permanent grin led them in a common sporting event crowd-pleaser: “the wave.”
Fans debated over what it looked like: radish or pepper.
Jim Carmen, a family friend of Mills keeper and freshwoman Emily Meike, commended the Cyclones for their hard work and drive.
“It’s great to see them when they hustle, when they play head to head,” he said. “They have a lot of heart.”