Feature article on UMBC homepage
The sun rises and crews get to work cutting the plush Riviera Bermuda grass, repainting lines and repairing divots with green dyed sand.
As the only Bermuda grass field in the America East Conference, UMBC has to keep it looking its best. And, with the growing success of its soccer program, there’s a good chance the field will see a lot more action this fall.
For the defending America East champion UMBC men’s soccer team, this recent success is nothing new. However, the 2013 season marks a lot of firsts for the team, including cracking the top ten in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) rankings and 7th in Top Drawer Soccer. They currently rank no. 8 in NSCAA, slipping one spot after a tough, double overtime loss to Delaware. UMBC women’s soccer is also seeing similar success, having won seven of their last nine contests – the most wins for the team since 2006.
“We have maintained a quality program for quite some time, but these are heights we have not scaled before and marks an exciting, new era for our team,” said Steve Levy, Associate Athletic Director, UMBC.
UMBC’s unprecedented success comes at a time when soccer in the United States has never been more popular. And, with the 2014 World Cup less than 12 months away, that interest will only continue to grow.
However, if you were to visit UMBC campus on a game night, you’d think the Cup was just days away. University students and alumni have a strong tradition of supporting its soccer program. Each fall, “retriever fever” sweeps the campus community, bringing with it a surge of college spirit and camaraderie. Halls are decorated, events are booked and thousands of students converge on the campus for Homecoming week – all leading up to the men’s soccer match. This year, more than 1,700 attended the Saturday game.
“Every year we draw more and more fans and alumni back to campus as a community, while the events and support get better and better,” said Anthony Adams, Men’s Soccer Associate Head Coach. “I would challenge anyone to come to a men’s soccer game and not see tremendous school spirit.”
Despite the large disparity in budget and resources when compared to other top school programs in the country, UMBC has continued to consistently rank well in game attendance and participation. During the 2012 soccer season, the university was 25th in attendance, nationally; and numbers are up from 995 to 1,228 per game in 2013.
Nowhere is this school spirit and support more evident than on the sidelines. Each home game, thousands of students, alumni and fans turn out – complete with banner flag, rally drum, matching apparel and organized chants. Lot 17, named for the original spot where fans would gather before and after each game, was a way for UMBC’s soccer fans to get organized. Following the 2010 season, men’s soccer saw a significant rise in attendance at home games after an appearance in the 2010 NCAA tournament, advancing to the second round. With help from an enthusiastic men’s soccer club team, Lot 17 was formed and is now a quintessential part of the school’s soccer heritage. The fan-based group often travels to away games and can be found taking over opposing stadiums with their cheering.
Soccer is a sport I am very passionate about,” said Edward (Teddy) Tibert, a UMBC club soccer player and lead organizer for Lot 17. “I think that’s what makes it great – we’re so unique from other schools in the sense that the greatness of soccer isn’t taken away by all the shine that football brings.” This Saturday, the America East Conference action continues, as UMBC men’s soccer battles University of New Hampshire (UNH) for first place at Retriever Soccer Park. For tickets and more information, please visit www.umbcretrievers.com.