Most of the time, the Ruth Gunden gymnasium is full of sports teams practicing, students playing pickup basketball and community members walking on the track. But, for a few hours every week, after the glossy wooden bleachers have been pulled out, the tranquil environment of the gym is transformed into a place of roaring school spirit and competition.The Leaf Pile is the nickname of Goshen College’s student section and it is an opportunity for students to join in song and chant, wear themed outfits and dig into the opposing sports teams.
Recently, however, it has gained the reputation of being the most exhilarating location on campus.
Last Friday, the men’s volleyball team opened their season and the bleachers boasted one of the loudest and most supportive indoor student sections in years, according to Dan Eash-Scott, a junior history major and seasoned Maple Leafs fan Andy Bennet, a fifth year accounting major and member of the men’s volleyball team.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that we have been able to pull bigger crowds to volleyball matches,” Bennet said, “but that has not been near to what we have experienced this year. In the three home games that have been played so far, I’ve even heard of opposing players and coaches speaking highly of the student section, or at least acknowledging it.
“The atmosphere that we are able to bring to our home games makes it one of a kind, and, in my five years of playing, I have never seen anything better than what our student section brings to the gym.”
From baseball players to choir members to art majors, the Leaf Pile has attempted to be a place for every GC student to band together behind a single goal: scream, sing and chant in the hopes of giving GC teams energy and an edge over their competition.
Recently, prop additions such as flags and brooms have become commonplace, further increasing the support the students can muster across the court to their team.
“Goshen students attend sporting events not only to just find something to do but also to support their friends and support campus culture,” said Isaac Sawatzky, sophomore graphic design major. Sawatzky transferred from Eastern Mennonite University last fall and has enjoyed the “energy that comes with attending sporting events.”
Eash-Scott, who has a history of riling up the student section, also added “I see different people there every time that I get to talk to and make connections with. It’s a place where we get together and … [support] our team and try to help us score another point or two. It’s a lot of small pieces coming together.”
He sees each game, whether it is basketball, volleyball or soccer, as another opportunity to let the community show up together.
Erica Albertin, director of athletics, is hoping to add extra signs to the student section like many other schools in the conference.
“The plan would be to make some more signs that build more pride and joy within our student section,” Albertin said.
This past Tuesday, over 20 fans traveled to Bethel University to give their men’s volleyball team a “warm welcome” in a match against Goshen even though they were away from home.
Even away from home, GC’s sports teams say they feel the support of the Leaf Pile on the court and on the field.