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Camp Whitcomb: A thread running throughout women’s soccer’s 25-year history

Photo by Mike Wittliff/Marquette Athletics

Photo by Mike Wittliff/Marquette Athletics

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“Camp Whitcomb is a place you don’t forget, and the memories you make you definitely don’t forget.”

Almost two decades ago, Marquette men’s soccer coach Steve Adlard was looking for a men’s soccer retreat location, and found Camp Whitcomb. Its location — approximately 30-40 minutes from campus in an remote, distraction-free area — made it an ideal fit.

“You’re kind of getting away from campus,” said Markus Roeders, current women’s soccer head coach and former men’s soccer assistant. “You avoid a lot of traveling in between, you spend a lot of time together, we get our training time here, we get our bonding time and we get our meals here.”

The women’s team would join them at Camp Whitcomb during the same week every August, which created a unique dynamic. “We kind of brought (the tradition) along. So when the men went out here, we went out here at the same time,” Roeders said. “So, it kind of went hand in hand.”

As the Adlard era of men’s soccer came to a close in November 2005, so did men’s soccer’s attendance at Whitcomb. But, women’s soccer kept the tradition alive. Soon enough, it became an integral part of the program’s 25-year history.

Each Whitcomb week features a variety of  themed days, including Sports Day and Family Day. Other traditions include running with President Lovell or playing an exhibition against Wisconsin. The team enjoys smaller activities too, like the annual spelling bee and an underclassmen vs. upperclassmen cook-off.

The program’s whole self-described family atmosphere starts at Whitcomb. Each freshman discovers the identity of her elder team sister, or mentor, to help with the adjustment to college.

“Everyone’s there for each other,” assistant coach Ashley Bares said. “Having your specific family or sisters within the team is like your go-to if you ever have questions or you’re having a good day or you’re having a bad day.”

Photo by Ashley Bares/Marquette Athletics

Bares experienced Camp Whitcomb through multiple lenses — as a player from 2007-‘10, and as an assistant coach since 2013.

While the first few years at Whitcomb as a coach felt weird, Bares said that she gradually adjusted. “At the same time, the memories of being a player still creep in, and it’s definitely there because Camp Whitcomb is a place you don’t forget, and the memories you make you definitely don’t forget.”

Unlike on campus, having a soccer field right outside the lodge allows for the team to practice three to four times a day.

“We all sleep together, we all eat together, we’re going out to trainings together, pretty much always together,” senior Caroline Fink said. “So it’s different from being on campus where we all come to practice and then go to our separate apartments.”

Then comes the Whitcomb wall. It is not a physical wall, yet it stands as tall and large as a real one in players’ minds. All of a sudden, players’ bodies feel out of sync and their sense of time becomes dulled. Bares described it as “going a little stir crazy.”

“You feel like you’ve been out here for a while, and it’s just you and your teammates, or it’s another trail run or it’s another session,” Bares said. “Days start to blend, you lose track of what the date is or what day it is.”

As challenging as the Whitcomb wall is, each team walks away with its own set of memories. “There are so many memories when we come here,” Fink said. “Just the little stuff like the jokes we make at practice or the funny things that happen at meals make it memorable.”

Some of those memorable small things include pranks or players lost on trails although Powell also mentioned that some things she “can’t really say.” Powell has seen her fair share of Whitcomb moments as a sixth-year senior after redshirting two years because of injuries. She’s still has yet to see two years that are the same.

“Every year is always different just with a new group, but I create new memories every year,” Powell said. “It gets more fun every year honestly.”

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