MONMOUTH, Ill. – Like the characters in Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel “The Three Musketeers,” four Morton High School graduates have banded together at Monmouth College to help the Fighting Scots’ men’s soccer team to their most successful season in nearly 10 years.
Andy Sheller, Matt Schmidt, Logan Simpson and Devin Freitag went their separate ways after graduating from Morton High School in 2009, but eventually came back together to lead the Fighting Scots to a school-record tying eight match unbeaten streak. Sheller was the first to wear the “Red and White,” and that started the ball rolling.
“I saw Monmouth as an opportunity to help build a program capable of competing for a conference title,” said Sheller, a biology major. “Aside from the athletics, Monmouth provided a good education with a small campus atmosphere. I knew I wouldn’t be a number. I know all my professors on a first-name basis.”
Schmidt joined Sheller the following fall. After a semester at the University of Iowa, the accounting major transferred to Illinois Central College before ultimately joining his former teammate, just before fall registration ended.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” explained Schmidt on his decision to attend Monmouth. “I ended up not liking Iowa because it was too big. Don Sheller (Andy’s father) got me to talk to Coach (George) Perry about playing soccer and I enrolled two days before the end of registration. Andy has been a life-long friend and convinced me it was the right move. I’m glad he did.”
It took Simpson and Freitag a little longer to be convinced to join their longtime friends. Simpson, an accounting major, spent two years playing soccer at national contender Dominican University. Freitag, meanwhile, was honing his skills at ICC and earning an associate’s degree in arts and science before transferring to Monmouth and majoring in biology.
At Monmouth, the “Four Musketeers” fell into the same roles as they had for the Potters. Schmidt has been solid in goal, Sheller at defender, Simpson in the midfield and Freitag up top as the Scots have rolled to a 7-4-2 record, the team’s highest win total since 2002. With three, and perhaps more, games yet to play, the Morton connection is anxious to show what they can do, although it did take some adjustment.
“The level of technical skill required for college and the speed of play that you must have has been the biggest difference from high school,” said Freitag. “College is a completely different style of play from high school. It’s more competitive and more physical with more pace on and off the ball.”
Simpson, the Scots’ leading scorer (Freitag is No. 2), is pleased with his decision to join the friends he had played with since grade school. Like Dumas’ d’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the Morton foursome has become nearly inseparable on the pitch.
“I knew that Matt and Andy had a good time at Monmouth, so I figured I’d transfer to Monmouth to play soccer with two of my best friends,” said Simpson. “The addition of Devin made me feel like I had made the right choice.”
Coach Perry couldn’t be happier with his Morton quartet.
“I knew Morton had an excellent program,” said Perry, now in his sixth year at Monmouth. “We were fortunate to land Andy. His older brother Scott was here on the track and cross country team, so we had that connection. Logan, Devin and Matt came in and filled the voids. Logan and Devin are true scoring threats.”
Not only have the former high school mates filled some the Scots’ needs, they’ve also raised their level of play, and more importantly, made those around them better.
“Playing together for so long, they know what each other can do and they hold each other accountable,” said Perry. “They’ve also pulled their teammates along and the result is the entire team is playing much better. We’re certainly glad the Morton kids are here.”
While each of Perry’s Morton recruits took different routes to become a Fighting Scot, they all agreed it was the right move.
“Overall, Monmouth has been an amazing experience,” summed up Simpson. “The classes are very challenging and the professors work with you in order to get help in a specific class. Monmouth is a great school, and I’m very happy I transferred here.”
Much like d’Artagnan’s quest to become a Musketeer, the Scots have faced many challenges this season, going 1-4 through the first five games. That “rough” start makes them appreciate what they can accomplish through teamwork.
“The success that we’ve had this season doesn’t fall simply upon one player,” said Simpson. “Every member of our team, including Coach Perry, has believed that this program can be successful, and we work hard as a team to get the job done.”
Simpson’s sentiment brings to mind the Three Musketeers’ motto: “All for one, one for all.”
article courtesy Monmouth College