Five and a half minutes left in the half. The goalie dives to her left to block a shot. It deflects off her, but she cannot get to the rebound shot in time. The ball rolls just underneath her and into the net. 

“¡GOOOOOOOOOOL!” an announcer screams. “¡De la numero 13, Sydney Schilling!” 

The Spanish emanating from the loudspeakers at Elon University women's soccer match on Sunday evening might have sounded strange to the ears of those walking past, but if they stopped for a minute, they would have noticed the flags of the seemingly random countries placed along the back fence of the field. 

The flags of these Spanish-speaking countries were displayed at Rudd Field as part of a collaborative effort between the Elon women’s soccer team and El Centro de Español to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. 

Sylvia Munoz, associate director for the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education [CREDE] at Elon, said coach Chris Neal contacted her at the end of the spring semester to ask if she wanted to do an event with the team for Hispanic Heritage month. 

The celebration included homemade traditional food made by members of El Centro and CREDE, the flags, a free soccer clinic, Spanish music, and Twitter updates in English and translated into Spanish by Munoz. There were also Spanish announcements made by Elon University men's soccer senior midfielders Eduardo Alvarez and Miguel Salazar, from Honduras and Mexico, respectively. 

“It’s nice to see,” Munoz said. “At the same time, it’s nice to use students in a good way to make them feel appreciated and celebrate their culture. No one had to twist their arms.”

The event kicked off at 5 p.m. with a soccer clinic for elementary school-aged players instructed by some players from the men’s team. 

Angela MacDonald, a local mother from Gibsonville, brought her kids to expose them to a university environment and to have them learn skills from older players. 

“We’ve heard about the Elon clinics during the summer time, but it’s never been something that’s in our budget,” said MacDonald, whose daughter and son both play for Gibsonville Parks and Recreation. “We thought we’d come out here and check this out as an opportunity to learn skills.”

Freshman from the men’s soccer team volunteered to help lead shooting drills, one-on-ones and mini scrimmages. Between drills, kids challenged themselves to take the ball from the feet of the Elon players, not letting the misses distract them from their goal. 

“All of them are really excited to play,” said freshman defenseman Nick O’Callaghan. “It reminds me of when I was a kid and used to come out here, loving to kick the ball around.” 

Munoz said the hope was to have more of the Hispanic and Latino community at the clinic, since the whole night celebrated their heritage and culture. But the clinic was planned at the last minute, without time to let school districts and townships know of the event. 

MacDonald was one of few residents outside of Elon who did know of the clinic, but not until several hours before. Her friend, Ginny Drewery, received a text from the coach of the men’s team asking her if she was coming to the event around 3 p.m. Without that connection to Elon, though, the two mothers would not have known it was happening. They both said they would have liked for it to have been advertised in newsletters, and hope that there will be more in the future. 

Munoz said marketing the event was the hardest part, and next year plan on putting more effort into communicating the clinic and the Hispanic Heritage month celebration in general to the wider community. 

“We can connect with soccer,” said Diana Prieto Viñas, assistant director of El Centro. “I mean, it’s big in our countries, and we can celebrate and connect both things. It’s like we share something.” 


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