The Franklin Pierce University Men's soccer team out of Rindge, New Hampshire, is on a heater of a year for the second year in a row.

Last year, the Division II soccer team won the National Championship in Seattle, Washington. And this year, they are doing it again.

The 19-0-2 team is flying to North Carolina in hopes of being reigned back-to-back national champions, but they won't be able to do it without their moms away from home: the "lunch ladies."

Although New Hampshire is thrilled that a university in the Granite State is going for another national title, the best story about the team's success is found in the college's cafeteria.

Merrilyn Patch and Arwen Mellor have been the Franklin Piece "lunch ladies" for as long as I know. When I went to FPU, they would religiously have my panini press or quesadilla (specially made and hot) ready for me to eat before I even ordered it.

They know the students at the university like they are their own children, and the students look to them like they are their moms away from home.

Perhaps no one looks at them more like a mom than the men's soccer team. Many of the men's soccer players are international players, as FPU is a DII school with a strong athletic presence. The players' actual families are rarely able to see the games in person or offer local support.

While Patch is proud of the fact that she has not missed a home game in six years, her and Mellor's motherly duties do not stop at the home pitch.

Merrilyn Patch, via Facebook
Merrilyn Patch, via Facebook

"These are my baby boys," said Patch. "They are far from home and don’t have family close by, so I take care of them while they are here."

Both Patch and Mellor study the names of the foreign players, host Christmas parties for the team, and even cook personal meals and treats when the school cafeteria is closed.

The "lunch ladies" take the team to breakfast and lunch off-campus, and are included when the team does holiday cookie decorating. They are part of the team, even donning athletic gear and holding supportive signs.

Merrilyn Patch, Via facebook
Merrilyn Patch, Via facebook

As a collegiate athlete, one of the saddest, proudest, and most important moments of your collegiate career is your senior game. Typically you are honored for playing your sport, walk with family, and go to a ceremony held by the team for all seniors before the final home game.

The soccer team, many being international players, do not always have their mothers and families present for their senior nights.

"Arwen and I have had the honor of walking with many of the boys for senior game," said Patch. "I always consider this a huge privilege, and I’m so proud of everyone of them. We have walked with Nikki, Jadel, Yannik, Carlos, Miguel, Jonas, Javi and I went to Rhode Island to walk with my heart, Noam" (who transferred out of FPU and still requested the "lunch ladies" from FPU walk with him).

Merrilyn Patch, via Facebook
Merrilyn Patch, via Facebook

The team needs Merrilyn Patch and Arwen Mellor's soccer support like the rest of the school needs their cooking.

Two years ago, in 2021, when the men's soccer team looked to head to Colorado for the final four, they preemptively included their support system. The team chipped in to get flowers and a "travel voucher" that included money for flights and a hotel.

Last year was no different. Both "lunch ladies" flew to Seattle, Washington, to watch the Franklin Pierce Ravens win a national championship.

At this point, the lunch ladies MUST BE the team's good luck charm. So naturally, they are running it back. Patch messaged me earlier this week and told me the team pitched in for her to attend, and Mellor is flying down to North Carolina on Friday.

Merrilyn Patch and Arwen Mellor are two of the kindest, best human beings in New Hampshire and on this planet. They would not miss their team's biggest moment: the pursuit of back-to-back national championships.

Good luck to the Franklin Pierce University Men's soccer team, and we hope the "lunch ladies" bring you all the luck you need to become two-time national champions.

Franklin Pierce University "Lunch Ladies" aka "Moms" of the Team

The Franklin Pierce University "lunch ladies" will head to Seattle, Washington for the NCAA DII men's soccer tournament to support FPU's men's soccer team. Here are Merrilyn Patch and Arwen Mellor, the two biggest supporters, the team moms, and their loyalty to the team for the past five years.

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