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By Greg Johnson
SAN ANTONIO – Ohio Wesleyan’s trip to the Division III men’s soccer semifinals was marred when burglars broke into the team’s vans and stole uniforms, computers and personal items on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bishops, who take on Montclair State tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET, had not been away from the San Antonio International Airport for more than 30 minutes when their vans were broken into while they ate lunch at a local restaurant.
After eating, players and coaches were shocked to find most of the items in two of their three vans were gone, including 15 laptop computers belonging to the players. Wallets, clothes, practice gear, soccer shoes, uniforms and other personal items also were missing.
An Ohio Wesleyan official brought extra uniforms on Thursday, and Trinity (Texas), the host school for the championship, loaned the Ohio Wesleyan players shoes, soccer balls and cones to practice with on Thursday afternoon.
It will be up to the San Antonio Police Department to find the other items that can’t be so easily replaced.
“Two of my guys were crying because all their projects and work for finals next week were on their computers that were stolen,” Ohio Wesleyan coach Jay Martin said. “I immediately called our president and the dean of students. They said they will contact all their professors to tell them about the potential problem. They are very supportive. We wanted to take the academic pressure off them as quickly as we could.”
Martin is trying to keep his team focused on the task of advancing to the national championship match, which will take place on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
“My message to our guys is all that stuff is material, and they will get it back eventually,” Martin said. “But this experience is something they will have forever one way or the other.”
Martin said there was one open space among the three vans. One of the Ohio Wesleyan players noticed a truck pull into the empty space, but he didn’t see anything unusual. Martin and Trinity coach Paul McGinlay surmise that the burglary took maybe three or four minutes to conduct.
“It looks like they used screwdrivers to get into the driver’s door of one van and the passenger side of another,” McGinlay said.
Martin and McGinlay have been friends for 25 years, dating back to the time when they were conference rivals when McGinlay coached at Wooster.
“It is a small world,” McGinlay said. “Twenty-one years ago, Jay wrote my reference for the Trinity job. I’ve been here ever since. He is a good friend, and I will do whatever I can to help him and his team.”
If the Bishops (21-2) win their national semifinal against Montclair State (19-3-3), it will mark a milestone victory for Martin, who has won 606 games in his career. His next victory would tie him with former Wheaton (Illinois) coach Joe Bean for the most by a men’s soccer coach in any division.
Montclair State would like to delay that celebration until next fall. The Red Hawks are making their first national semifinals appearance after defeating Stevens Institute, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.