By Terry Foy
It's the classic "chicken-or-the-egg" argument: are fans showing up in droves for men's soccer games at Geppi-Aikens Field because of the team's unexpectedly fast start, or is the `Hounds' success directly attributable to the force of the fans?
The fact of the matter - it doesn't matter.
The Greyhounds (13-3, 6-1) are undefeated at home, and estimates put this season's average attendance somewhere between 20-50 percent larger than the last three seasons.
Superfan, Student Government Association President, and vocal soccer enthusiast Dylan O'Shea says that the magic this season comes from more than just a few extra bodies in the bleachers.
"It's about quality as much as quantity," O'Shea said. "A lot of the people there, even if they don't know much about soccer, can pretend they do and know how to cheer for the team."
O'Shea identified three segments of vocal fans, starting with a group of roughly 10 freshmen whose roommates play for the team. Their weapon of choice is singing a small rotation of songs that get rehashed throughout the game, a common practice that addresses the difference between cheering for soccer as compared to basketball or lacrosse, given the slower pace of the game and the scarcity of goals.
Another contingent of supporters play for the club soccer team.
"A lot of the varsity players come to our games and are pretty wild, and we clearly return the favor," senior club soccer player Mike Tirone said. "It's a nice co-op/partnership we've got going on."
The Superfans are the third group of loyal followers. Superfans is a student organization created by the SGA in conjunction with the Athletic Department that encourages students to attend games wearing green Loyola t-shirts.
Tirone, who is also a former sports editor for The Greyhound, said that the team has done a good job of utilizing the social-networking website Facebook.com as a way to publicize their games. He added that, with the quality of play and the exciting style the Greyhounds employ, most students have been sticking around to the end in order to savor the victories.
O'Shea echoed his impressions of the impressive `Hounds.
"It's been fun to watch coming off of last season, which was disappointing in light of high expectations," he said. "Now, we have freshmen that nobody knew about before the season like Phil Bannister, who seems to finish anything in the box, and Daniel Ankrah, who has developed a cult-following because, being short, fast, and aggressive, he looks and plays like [Chelsea midfielder] Shaun Wright-Phillips out there on the wing."
Loyola fans' last opportunities to see the Hounds at home come on Friday and Sunday, when they host Canisius and Niagara, respectively. Friday's tangle with the Golden Griffins currently carries a lot of weight as the `Hounds hold a one-game edge over Canisius for the top spot in the conference standings.
Loyola will then head to Florida the third weekend in November in an effort to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament by surviving the four-round MAAC Tournament, where the top six seeds get a pass through the first round.