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Footballers add foreign ‘flavour’

Story by Chad O'Bryhim

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As well as becoming playmakers and leaders, two international players have added a little bit of Irish and Scottish flair to the Baker University Wildcat men’s soccer team.

Recruited over the summer, juniors Ryan McAloon and Gerard Grehan have changed the landscape of the soccer team dramatically with attitude and experience.

Born in Dounbroune, Ireland, Grehan has competed on very competitive levels. A standout at Holy Cross High School, Grehan played for a nearby semi-professional team in Ireland before being recruited to play for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The choice to transfer to Baker was an easy one, Grehan said.

“I respect (head coach Alan Koch),” Grehan said. “He’s a tremendous coach that keeps his players close.”

McAloon, a Glasgow, Scotland native transferred to Baker from Louisburg College in North Carolina. Meeting for the first time at last year’s national tournament, McAloon said Koch left such a positive impression he didn’t feel pressured.

“It was more of an invitation than recruitment,” McAloon explained.

Since McAloon was 7 or 8 years old, soccer has been a major part of his life, he said.

“Back home, it’s all about the passion for the sport,” McAloon said. “That’s why I play. It’s why I should.”

While transferring to a new school can be a terrifying process, Grehan and McAloon both said they couldn’t be happier with their decisions. Grehan said he is especially surprised by the amount of pride that Baker has for its program.

“Their attitudes are unbelievable,” Grehan said. “I’ve played on a lot of different teams, but these players are committed.”

After having positive experiences with transfer players in high school, senior Josh Marchbank said he was particularly excited to find out about the incoming transfers this fall.

“They’re an excellent addition,” Marchbank said. “It’s been a tremendous experience to work with them.”

Despite McAloon’s and Grehan’s impact on the team, their first practices were obstructed by an inevitable language barrier.

“Sure, sometimes in the game it’s still hard to understand them,” Marchbank said.

Having already played for American schools, McAloon and Grehan were less concerned coming in about any culture or language boundaries.

This experience has extended past the sport and into the classroom as Grehan works toward his physical therapy major and McAloon continues work on his business major.

Both agreed the faculty support was unbelievable.

“It’s a really personal experience to go to school here,” Grehan said. “They work with my schedule and e-mail assignments when I’m gone.”

McAloon said he is excited his mother will be visiting the campus next semester.

“Not just to see a game, but to meet the team and my teachers, too,” McAloon said.

Similarly, Grehan was proud to say his family would be on campus soon.

“They think it’s a good move for me,” Grehan said. “They’re just as excited.”

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