By: Kristen Janes, Contributor
On Tuesday Oct. 16, Furman soccer honored the late Gray Griffin, a former teammate, and stand out player for the Paladins. Griffin was a star player at his high school, North Mecklenburg, where he was selected as a two-time Adidas National Soccer Player and a two-time Parade All-American.
Griffin was also selected to the U.S. Under-17 National Team, where he competed in the 2001 championship in Trinidad and Tobago. As captain of the team, Griffin started and impressed in all 90 minutes of the championship game. His star-studded playing continued at Furman, where he started in 12 matches as a freshman in the 2002 season, with teammates Clint Dempsey and Ricardo Clark. His teammates agreed that he was a positive light on the team, and even as a freshman he displayed a sense of maturity not found often in collegiate players.
Tragically, while traveling back to Furman, Griffin and three of his teammates were hit by a delivery truck as their car swerved into to traffic early 0n the morning of Oct. 11, 2002. Griffin was killed instantly, and his teammates Chefik Simo, Josh Villalobos and Sean Murray were all injured in the wreck.
After suffering such loss, the rest of the season proved to be one of growth for the Furman team. Following Griffin’s death, the Paladins united to post an NCAA record of 11 consecutive shutouts. That year, Furman finished 19-3-1, and won the Men’s Southern Conference title. They honored Griffin as an inspirational player and person that year, and have every year since.
This year’s memorial game was played against Furman’s SoCon rival, Wofford.
The Paladins entered Tuesday’s game boasting wins against Ohio State and South Carolina, as well as an undefeated record in SoCon play. Rain continued to fall until game time and sloppy field conditions proved to be a challenge for both teams.
The ‘Dins connected well in the first half, but failed to make any of their challenging shots on goal. Wofford came out strong after a rainy 15-minute half time, and the Terrier’s Connor Donohue scored in minute 58.
The Furman men took their time in answering the goal, but finally responded in minute 85 off of a long throw in. In the middle of a messy goalie box, senior defenseman Dalton Souder tapped the ball in off an assist from Cole McLagan. After tying the game, the Dins went back to work quickly, racking up a majority of their 20 shots on goal in those final minutes. With time winding down quickly, midfielder Emery May was shoved aggressively in the top of the box, producing a foul against Wofford, giving the Paladins a penalty kick. With 53 seconds to play, senior captain Danny Kierath’s kick sailed past Wofford’s goalie and into the bottom right corner, pushing the Dins to a 2-1 win over rival Wofford.
In an exciting, yet rainy game, we remember Gray Griffin. His talent and character are in the memory of his former teammates, his family and friends and now any Furman soccer fan.