A/N: I have completed the manuscript for “Love Out Loud”. The first portion is a prologue which explains some of the history that leads to the opening scene, which is the first day of 2018 Freshman Orientation at Trinity Lutheran University.
On August 11, 2016, the Concordia University-Wisconsin Board of Regents, facing the loss of the school’s accreditation by the Lutheran Federation of Colleges due to a schism of philosophy between itself, the Faculty Senate, and the Student Government Association Executive Board, voted to consolidate its academic offerings with that of Concordia University-Ann Arbor and move all programs to the Michigan campus, to be completed in time for Fall 2018 classes. The Board of Regents also voted to seek out offers from other universities for the Mequon-based campus.
On September 6, 2016, the CUW Faculty Senate voted to enter into an agreement with the faculties at Carthage College and Wisconsin Lutheran College so that students wishing to transfer from Concordia may do so with full credit. Additionally, the Faculty Senate voted to pass on a resolution to the CUW Foundation seeking appropriate financial aid support for students who transfer to one of the two institutions.
During the November 10, 2016 meeting of the Board of Regents, it took up a purchase offer from Carthage College for the campus, which was approved unanimously. Five days later, the Carthage College Board of Trustees took up a motion by its chair, David Strasser, to rename the school Trinity Lutheran University upon its relocation to Mequon in 2018. After significant debate, the renaming was approved by a three-vote margin. The Board also approved a one-year moratorium on student enrollment, to take place for the 2017-2018 academic year. Additionally, the transfer agreement between Carthage, Concordia, and Wisconsin Lutheran was approved.
On July 1, 2018, Carthage College became Trinity Lutheran University in its new home of Mequon, Wisconsin. In a few short weeks, the class of 2022 would arrive on campus. The Thunder’s 24 intercollegiate teams were granted membership into the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference, with Carthage’s membership in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) ending at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 academic year.
The school’s women’s lacrosse team, led by former Carthage coach Lauren Heberlein, would have four transfers from the Kenosha school, two hold-overs from Concordia’s class of 2021, and eighteen freshmen on its roster. The four Carthage transfers (Morgan Brooks, Megan Racicot, Jessica Fisher, and Nicole Babcock) and two former Falcons (Stephanie McNamara and Samantha Mueller) would be counted on to provide leadership for the team in its first season of play.
The first day of campus life for Trinity Lutheran University started bright and early as the Class of 2022 began arriving at 8am to move into their dorms and get acquainted with campus before the school’s opening service for freshmen and athletes at 4pm. Erin Matheson, a women’s lacrosse player coming to TLU from Rockford, MI, was unloading her parents’ minivan when the school’s chaplain, Deacon Marc Schmidt, and his wife Danielle joined them.
Marc: Jim, Val, I see all of you made it here safely. You should have called us if you were going to be in town a day early. We could have gone out to dinner, the five of us.
Jim: We got in about 9:00 last night because I was needed at the museum in the afternoon and couldn’t pass the task off to another curator.
Danielle: How is the bouncing, baby freshman doing today?
Erin: Good as can be. I don’t know anybody here but you and Mr. Slick, but I hear that there will be a LOT of my teammates coming today.
Marc: I think I heard your team has 18 freshmen out of the 24 on the roster. Since athletes get to move in early, I’m guessing all 24 of you will be here by the end of the day. Have you seen your schedule for this evening’s beginning of orientation?
Erin: We have a team meeting that will run from 7-7:30, then “bonding time” from 7:30-10pm. Us athletes are exempted from the hall meeting tonight, but will have to schedule in a time to meet with our hall director before classes start on Monday.
Marc: I need to get back to my office to work on this afternoon’s opening service. Erin, stop by after you get moved in and settled. We’ll do lunch together and I can give you some of the low-down on campus and what I’ve learned in my first month or so up here.
Marc gave Erin a hug, which was reciprocated along with a peck on the cheek. Marc kissed his wife goodbye and waved at Jim and Val before heading over to Luther Hall and returning to work on his first worship service as Trinity Lutheran University’s chaplain.
Around 11:30, Erin stopped into Marc’s office in Luther Hall.
Erin: Is the chaplain in?
Marc: For most people, no, but for you, yes. Take a seat.
Erin sat down and looked around Marc’s place of work, taking in the combination of religious and sports artifacts.
Erin: If I hadn’t seen the proof, I wouldn’t believe that you had done all that you have.
Marc: It’s been an interesting life, I can tell you that. From my time at Drake to Ball State and Western Michigan, where Danielle and I met your parents, and onward to Buffalo and building my own soccer club before going into coaching education and getting through my diaconal coursework, everything has helped me get to this point, and I wouldn’t change anything that has happened. Well, maybe one thing. I wish my dad had been able to see me achieve all of this. Then again, if he were still with us, most of this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Erin: Did you think you’d be here a year ago when I decided to apply for admission?
Marc: In reality, no. I didn’t know that the position here would be vacant or that I’d be asked to take it on after being consecrated. Things just fell together the way they were meant to. I get to do what I’ve always wanted, which is campus ministry in a setting where my previous experience in student affairs and athletics can be a help to both the professionals and the students.
Erin: Ready for lunch?
Marc: Just let me get this last sentence written for my homily and then I’ll be set.
Marc finished up and then the two of them walked over to Albrecht for lunch at Luther’s Landing, comprised of six different mini-restaurants in a food court style setting. The pair went to their preferred counters, as Erin got a sandwich and salad from Express Deli and Marc a burger and fries from the Original Burger Company. While getting condiments for his food, Marc ran into someone from his past.
Danielle Dillon: Marc. Funny seeing you up in this part of the world.
Marc: Yeah. Took a job here about six weeks ago. Still getting my feet under me. I thought you were teaching elementary school.
Danielle: I was, but when Trinity advertised for a full-time assistant coach, I thought “what the heck” and put in my application. Guess the athletic director liked what he saw, as I got hired.
Marc: Congrats. You’ve always had the ability and confidence. Just needed the opportunity to show it.
Danielle: It didn’t hurt that I took a coaching seminar last year as part of my continuing education in the district. A local coach developed a module for current and future coaches to learn the ins-and-outs of athletic administration as well as the hurdles athletes face away from the field and issues that schools and coaches face.
Marc: Seems to have helped you land the gig here.
Danielle: So what have you been up to since we last saw each other?
Marc: After I shut the club down, I took a little time off before figuring out what I wanted to do next. I couldn’t really find a next chapter until after I was hospitalized a couple of years ago for anxiety and depression. Once my psychiatrist got my medication straightened out, I got into coaching education, developing the module you mentioned.
Danielle: That was your creation?!
Marc: Yep. 100% my own thinking on how best to get female coaches on equal footing with the inside track that men seem to always be on when it comes to knowing people in the business and informal mentoring.
Danielle: I know you’re not in the athletic department here, so where do you work on campus?
Marc: Luther Hall. I am the school’s chaplain.
Marc: Yes. I was set to go to seminary about 15 years ago, but my synodical candidacy committee denied me entrance due to debt racked up getting my two master’s degrees. During my sabbatical from soccer, I started the local synod’s diaconate education program. I was consecrated as a deacon in June and was asked, based on my past experience in campus ministry and student affairs, to take on the position here when Carthage’s campus pastor chose not to re-locate for the job.
Danielle: I better eat or I’ll be late for our coaches’ meeting at 1. No second training today because of the team meeting this evening following dinner.
Marc: I need to get truckin’ or my goddaughter Erin will wonder where I got off to. Great seeing you again. Still as button-cute as I remember. Maybe we can do lunch sometime and you can fill me in on what’s happened with you in the last three years. Opening service for freshmen and athletes is at 4 in Bonhoeffer Chapel in case you’re interested.
Danielle smiled at Marc as they parted and he found Erin.
Erin: How long could a burger and fries take to be made?
Marc: I ran into a former player of mine from MUSC. She’s the assistant women’s soccer coach here.
Erin: Cool. You’ll have to introduce me to her at some point.
Marc: I think I can do that at the All-Sports Mixer on Wednesday. Have you met your roommate yet?
Erin: No. She was at practice. I’ll hopefully see her when I get back to my room. What time is service again?
Marc: 4:00. It will be VERY similar to what you’re used to in your home congregation.
Erin: I should get back to see if roomie is around and to maybe meet some of my teammates.
Erin left Albrecht and went back to Augsburg to try and make a few friends before orientation started tonight.
Erin unlocked the door to her room and saw her roommate watching television.
Cassie Kingston: You must be Erin.
Cassie stood up and greeted her roommate with a handshake.
Erin: You’re Cassie, then. Cute boyfriend you have.
Cassie: Thanks. We’ve been together three years now. He’s playing soccer at St. Thomas up in the Twin Cities.
Erin: Is that where you’re from?
Cassie: Yes, Woodbury to be exact. You?
Erin: Rockford, MI, about ten miles northeast of Grand Rapids.
Cassie: What are you majoring in?
Erin: Management. Yourself?
Erin: I know you’re an athlete since you were already moved in when I got here this morning. What sport?
Cassie: Soccer. I’m a defender.
Erin: I play lacrosse. Defender as well.
Cassie: I’m not sure how our team will do this year. We have 14 freshmen out of 20 spots on the team.
Erin: My uncle told me that we had 18 freshmen among our 24-player roster. He also ran into your assistant coach while we are at lunch earlier.
Cassie: Danielle? She’s a cutie. Of course, I don’t swing that way.
Erin: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Cassie: So you do?
Erin: Yes and no. Yes as in I THINK I do, but no in terms of any experience.
Cassie: You know that women’s sports tends to be a fertile ground for same-sex relationships. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of your teammates will be an option.
Erin: I’m not TOO eager to jump someone at the moment. Just want to get to know people here. Being from out of state, it’s a little intimidating knowing no one right now.
Cassie: I guess being in a spring sport puts you at a disadvantage in that department versus the fall sport athletes. We had a ready-made group of friends when we came to campus two weeks ago.
Erin heard some commotion and went into the hall to check it out. She saw a few of the women on her floor running toward the stairwell and then through the door to go downstairs. When the person chasing all of them ran past her, she walked behind her and looked her over. Erin saw that her back was chiseled as the muscles poked around the areas that her t-back sport bra didn’t cover. She also noticed a tattoo on a good portion of her right arm. She knew that the mystery woman was at least a couple of inches taller than her 5’7″ self and that her backside was smokin’ in her yoga pants. Erin felt a little funny and thought to herself, “They sure don’t grow them like THAT where I’m from.” Her stomach turned over and, once her dorm mate turned around and Erin saw her magnetic smile and piercing eyes, she quickly thought about what to say as she came walking back down the hall. Fortunately, she didn’t have to make the first move.
Stephanie Lafleur: Someone as cute as you shouldn’t have your jaw dragging on the floor.
Erin: Wha? Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to gape. It’s just that your type doesn’t exist where I come from.
Steph: Where’s that?
Erin: West side of Michigan, near Grand Rapids.
Steph: I don’t come from TOO far from there. Kitchener, Ontario, about halfway between London and Toronto. Steph Lafleur.
Erin extended her hand to Steph. “Erin Matheson.”
Steph shook Erin’s hand, then looked her over. “Freshman or athlete?”
Erin: Both. Lacrosse player. You?
Steph: That’s one thing we have in common. I’m on the lacrosse team here as well.
Erin: You’ve got to be a goalkeeper, because no one would choose to be THAT buff and play lacrosse.
Steph: Score one for the pick-up artist. So, what part of you will I get to see most when we play, the back of your head or your bum?
Erin giggled, thinking “Damn! Girl got game!”
Erin: I guess you’ll need to get used to staring at my backside. I’m a defender, left side mostly.
Steph: You’re a bit of a firecracker, aren’t you? I think we’ll get along JUST FINE!
Erin: So what brings an Ontarian like yourself down here for college?
Steph: My dad works at Wilfred Laurier and I wanted to go to a Lutheran college, but not at home.
Erin: That used to be called Waterloo Lutheran University, right?
Steph: Another point for you. How do you know that?
Erin: My godfather told me a story about them choosing their new name so they wouldn’t have to buy new stationary since the initials were the same.
Steph: That’s an urban legend.
Erin: Have you met any of our future teammates yet?
Steph: The four that I was chasing down the stairs, they’re all on the lacrosse team.
Erin: Guess I’ll get to meet them at tonight’s team meeting and bonding time.
Steph: What are you majoring in?
Steph: Physical Education and Religion double major. I’d like to work at a Lutheran college either here in the States or back in Canada.
The two of them were running out of things to say. They were saved when the scared-away foursome sauntered back onto the floor.
Steph L. (to the group): Get over here. I’ve got a teammate of ours for you guys to meet.
The four women came over to the two of them and introduced themselves to Erin.
Sam Mueller: I’m Sam. This is my sister, Kristie, and our best friend Steph McNamara.
Kelley Ochowicz: KO, I mean Kelley Ochowicz.
Erin: Pleased to meet you. All of you freshmen?
Sam: Steph and I are sophomores, a couple of the very few in that class.
Erin: Did the two of you transfer in after Concordia left?
Sam: No. We applied to Concordia knowing that Carthage would be moving here after our first year. We wanted to have a lay of the land before the new school came in and Kristie started this year.
Kelley: Do we have any upperclassmen on the team?
Steph M.: There are supposed to be four seniors who have come up from what remained of Carthage. We’ll meet them tonight, I reckon.
A pair of students exited their room and came upon the mini-team meeting in the hallway.
Christen Prince: Hi! I’m Christen. Who do we have here?
The girls introduced themselves to Christen, who then introduced her roommate, Julie, to them since she decided to go shy around the rambunctious group.
Erin: Sorry to have to back out of this get-to-know-you session, but I need to get changed before going to the opening service. My godfather is the chaplain and it wouldn’t look good if I were to miss it.
Steph L.: I should head back to my room and do the same. Catch all of you at the team meeting if not before.
Erin and Steph changed and the two of them met in the lobby around 3:45 to walk over to Bonhoeffer Chapel. While waiting on Erin, Steph met a couple more of her teammates, roommates Savannah Johnson and Morgan Andringa, as they returned from the fitness center. Walking over to the chapel, Erin and Steph were passed by a group of freshmen being a bit silly. The pair laughed at them while chatting on the way. Erin looked Steph over briefly and got a similar feeling of nausea to what she had when viewing her in the dorm hallway earlier. Steph peeked at Erin out of the corner of her eye, admiring her unadorned beauty. Once they reached the chapel, both went to open the door and their hands connected. Erin pulled hers back, letting Steph open and hold the door for her to enter. They walked into the sanctuary and found seats. Erin went to the front and spoke to Marc for a few seconds, giving him a couple of words of encouragement and squeezing his hand before going back and sitting down next to Steph. She scanned through the hymnal to familiarize herself with the liturgy for worship, then showed it to Steph, who recognized the layout as similar to the regular Sunday liturgy at WLU’s chapel. Finding another common thread with Erin, Steph settled in and prepared her mind and heart for worship while waiting for the service to begin. Seeing Steph in prayer, Erin reached over and took her hand, then joined her in quiet contemplation.
Erin and Steph walked up to the front of the chapel following service, where Erin introduced Steph to Marc. While there, she asked him if they could come over on Sunday for dinner and a break from campus, to which her godfather said yes. After the girls left, Marc headed back to Luther Hall. On his way there, Danielle stopped him and asked if tomorrow afternoon would be a good time to get together for lunch. He told her that it was a VERY good time since he would be tied-up most of the day on-campus with orientation. She complimented him on the service and winked at him before leaving to grab dinner off-campus ahead of the athletic team meetings later in the evening.
Once the pair got their food in the dining hall, Erin looked around and saw a couple of women eating by themselves. Recognizing them from earlier in the day, Steph walked over to them with Erin trailing.
Steph: Mind if we join you, Morgan?
Morgan Andringa: Not at all. It’d actually be nice to meet some of our teammates before the team meeting.
Erin: Then today is your lucky day. Erin Matheson, lacrosse defender and owner of the worst hairdo at my high school.
Morgan: Morgan Andringa, and I think I can give you a run in the rat’s nest race.
Savannah (shyly): I’m Savannah.
Steph: Where are the two of you from, and why did you choose Trinity?
Morgan: Madison, and I chose to come here to do something different than the rest of my family. I think they counted that 26 members of my clan had attended the University of Wisconsin. My dad played for the 1990 National Champion men’s hockey team and my grandfather was a long-time team doctor for the local high schools and UW sports.
Savannah: Fredonia, just north of here, and I came to Trinity because it’s close to home. My parents are making me live on-campus because they’re afraid I’m destined to be a hermit due to my severe shyness and introversion.
Steph: Kitchener, Ontario, and it’s the combination of faith and lacrosse, not to mention getting away from home, that brought me over the border.
Erin: Rockford, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids, and I chose Trinity over Concordia-Ann Arbor because 1) the lacrosse team plays at a higher level, and 2) the scholarship money I got as a result of going to one of the 28 ELCA colleges or universities.
Two of the jokesters that had run past Erin and Steph earlier came over and sat down.
Lindsey Hoffman: Hi, Savannah, Morgan. Haven’t met you other two yet.
Steph and Erin introduced themselves.
Lindsey: Lindsey Hoffman, or as I am known in my hometown and on the lacrosse field, The Hoff.
Emily Sommer: I’m Emily, purveyor of Instagram witticisms and a sit-down comedian.
Erin: I hope you’re ready to meet your match, because I am quick on the draw with the funny.
Steph (to Lindsey): Just what we need as a team of mostly freshmen, two of our players in a constant battle to out-joke each other.
Savannah: Steph, what position do you play?
Emily: Isn’t it obvious with the tattoo and the guns? She’s gotta be a goalkeeper.
Steph: Is my physique THAT much of a giveaway?
Lindsey: I’d have to say so.
Erin saw Christen and Julie on their way out of the hall and waved at them. Steph spied a pair of older students who looked very much alike and had on Carthage lacrosse t-shirts. She walked over to them and started a conversation.
Steph: The pair of you have to be two of the seniors that are coming up from Kenosha. Steph Lafleur.
Jessica Fisher: Jess, and this is Megan.
Steph: Are you twins?
Megan Racicot: No. In fact, we’re not related at all. Just luck of the gene pool that we look so much alike. You’ve got to be one of the two freshmen goalkeepers we have.
Steph: Again with the quick jumping-to-conclusions. You’re right, but I don’t get how other players are so quick to peg me as a goalie.
Jess: You’re built like a Sherman Tank. Very similar in stature to our goalkeeper at Carthage, Nicole. You’ll get to meet her later at the team meeting.
Steph: I need to get back to the players I was dining with. Nice to meet you and I’ll see you in a bit.
Steph went back to her table and filled in the rest of the ladies about Jess and Megan. Once everyone had finished eating, they returned their trays and left the dining hall.