BY MARINA BURKE – STAFF WRITER
We hear it all the time: Why Division III?
Being a student athlete at a school such as Centre poses its fair share of trials, but at the end of the day most athletes wouldn’t trade it for the world. Each fall, Centre’s emphasis on personal, caring, and inclusive education lures in a new class full of fresh faces. These incoming student athletes have big dreams— not just in the classroom, but on fields, courts, pools, and the track.
The opportunity to pursue these is what draws exceptional athletes to the liberal arts education, and most importantly, to Centre College.
Ask any upperclassmen and they’ll tell you: time here flies by. For seniors Destinie Graves, Hunter Trenaman, and Ceci Vollbrecht, being a student-athlete was the perfect addition to their Centre experience. After interviewing these three outstanding athletes, they all expressed a similar theme in their experience: a feeling of unity.
For them, playing a sport was more than the wins and losses, it’s given them lifelong friendships and teammates who feel like family members. As the fall seasons come to a close and seniors play their final home games, a few of Centre’s most prominent athletes have taken some time to share there thoughts and reflections from their four years.
For Destinie Graves, a forward All-American who led the Women’s Soccer Team to the Final Four in 2015 what has separated their team from others is their chemistry:
“We’re very close. I’ve heard people say we’re like a cult, and in a way, that’s true. We eat together, we study together, and those girls are my best friends.”
Destinie’s senior night came on October 29th during the SAA conference match against Millsaps. Destinie reflected fondly on the experience, describing how her teammates decorated the locker room and wrote notes to each of the seniors. These notes were one of her favorite parts, since even the freshmen had fostered close relationships with their departing seniors. The long soccer practices provided a time when nothing else mattered; and it was during these hours where the team bonds really took hold.
It’s quite obvious this closeness has carried over onto the field. This past Saturday the Women’s Soccer team had 9-0 shutout victory over Millsaps in the SAA Quarterfinals and they will be hosting the conference championship this weekend November 4-6. As Destinie put it, they’re “making a run” for the championship just like they did last year. For Centre Women’s Soccer this entails three things: team chemistry, determination, and just a small amount of luck.
For Hunter Trenaman, a defensive lineman on Centre’s football team, his time here has been all about the relationships he’s made. He especially credits Head Coach Andy Frye for building a high-spirited, close-knit team. Frye, who is going on his 19th year as head coach, has made Centre one of the most respected football programs in division III.
Trenaman calls him “the king of morale” for his ability to foster zeal in his players time and time again. Frye is very good at bringing his team together as a family; Trenaman says that he can look around the locker room and see a room full of friends he’ll have for the rest of his life. These relationships show the values of Centre Football beyond the field.
Trenaman acknowledges that what really matters is the close relationships formed with his peers:
“Centre is a challenging place, and at the end of the day football is just a game, it’s your friends that will get you through it and stay with you for the rest of your life.”
The trials of being an athlete, and the brotherhood that is Centre Football, have had a big impact on Trenaman who’s seen himself grow as a person throughout his time here.
“We’re not just coached to become good football players, but to become good men, and the two go hand in hand.”
Their record reflects positive off-the-filed camaraderie as the Colonels sit at 7-1 on the season and will be traveling to Memphis this Saturday Nov. 5th for a conference game against the Rhodes Lynx.
Centre’s Field Hockey team, advancing into the SAA tournament, will also be traveling down to Memphis this Saturday to contest the Lynx. Amongst them is two-year team captain Ceci Vollbretch, midfielder and starter for all her four years.
Throughout her time at Centre, she’s seen the team grow in unity and determination. Her freshman class boasted 13 players and she says they we responsible for dictating the attitude of the team. As freshmen, they led the team to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the first time in Centre History and have had two NCAA trips since. They’ll be fighting for another NCAA birth once more this Saturday.
On senior day there was that hint of disbelief, but when the time came, Vollbretch and the other seniors were ready to savor some of their last minutes on the field together.
“Senior day is a good reminder that the reason we play is because we love the sport. At some point we are going to have to stop playing and no one is going to give us anything for it. Our reward is the enjoyment, memories and friendships we get out of it.”
For these athletes, along with their senior teammates, being a Colonel carried significance on and off the field. The memories and moments they’ve shared created bonds that will last long past their college days. However, it is on Senior day, when they get to gear up to compete on Centre’s Campus one final time that they begin to fully appreciate what their four years have meant.