Three NAIA All-Americans Reunite
By Stephen Copeland, Sounding Board Staff Writer
When Dennis Lapp got a call from his alma mater regarding his induction into the 2010 Lancer Athletic Hall of Fame class, all he expected was a ceremony. But he got much more.
On homecoming weekend, Lapp was greeted by two of his 1976 teammates, Paul Henning (2008 HOF Class) and Tim VanDuyne (2009 HOF Class)—a collective one-of-a-kind trio that all received NAIA All-American honors in the same year (’76) and the same sport (men’s soccer), the only time in Grace history something like that has happened.
“It’s a great experience for me to be back and see these guys that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Lapp said. “It means a lot to me for them to show up.”
The combination of the three premier talents made the ‘76 season unlike any other. None of them, however, imagined a season that successful.
Henning, possibly the best striker Grace has seen, tallied 20 goals in ‘76 and 67 in his Grace career. “The reason Paul scored so much was because he never passed the ball,” VanDuyne joked.
VanDuyne played the sweeper position but also scored five goals that season, and Lapp played in the midfield and tallied nine goals. “The rest of us only scored because everyone else was covering Paul,” Lapp said.
After winning two straight MCC championships in ‘73 and ‘74, the Lancers finished just barely above .500 in ‘75. The three All-Americans expected the ‘76 season to merely be another stepping stone.
“The year before was not the greatest year,” Henning said. “It was a rebuilding year, and it was not that good of a year. There weren’t high expectations.”
But the season was far from a rebuilding year. Not only did they boast three NAIA All-Americans, but the Lancers also posted a 14-3-1 record, went undefeated in conference play and won an MCC regular season championship. Defensively, they recorded 10 shutouts, didn’t allow a single goal in conference and, according to Henning, posted the lowest goals against average in Grace College history.
“There weren’t many losses, but what was really special, in my opinion, was that the defense was absolutely incredible,” Henning said. “We just had a field day on offense because of our incredible defense.”
The ‘76 trio also credited much of their success to head coach Terry Shrock, who compiled a 43-16-2 record in his four-year stint at Grace (his last season was ‘76). Some of his unorthodox methods included running and conditioning with the team, making them pass a rules test before earning playing time and not letting them take the field if he felt things weren’t right spiritually on the team.
“He cared for everyone on that team as an individual, physically and spiritually,” VanDuyne said. “He told us, ‘You have to take care of yourself before you can go out there and think that everything is okay.’ If we did that, he knew the team would come together.”
Unfortunately, the ’76 season ended on a bitter note. After defeating Goshen 5-0 in the regular season, Grace fell to the Maple Leafs in the NAIA District 21 championship, then slipped again in the championship game of the NCCAA tournament when they lost to defending champion Bryan College after missing a penalty kick in overtime. “That was a heartbreaker,” Lapp said.
In the busyness and stresses of life, their stories almost ended on a strange note as well. After the three of them graduated, Lapp didn’t see Henning and VanDuyne again…until this year’s Hall of Fame banquet when Grace soccer’s greatest storyline reunited—34 years later.
“I came back for Tim when he got inducted last year, and I wouldn’t have missed that for the world,” Henning said. “When I heard Dennis would be inducted as well I knew I couldn’t miss that for the world, either. It’s just so unusual to have three NAIA First Team All-Americans.”
This article was originally printed in the November 19, 2010 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.