Spirited Wash. U. fans spice up San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO—Twenty-three students might not sound like a lot compared to Washington University’s undergraduate population of more than 6,000, but they made their presence felt at the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer National Championship game in San Antonio.
During 210 minutes of play and a penalty shootout, the group of fans, led by the Conlon Crazies, sang and cheered in support of the Lady Bears. The Conlon Crazies, named after head coach Jim Conlon, made their mark this postseason with appearances at every game. “We felt like it was worth it,” said junior Alex Neumann, a leader of the Crazies. “We wanted to see Wash. U. win a national championship.”
The spirit of the students carried over to the group’s chaperones and won praise from Wash. U. parents. “They put in a lot of work to get here,” said Joseph Ackerman, a chaperone. “I’m here with some crazy kids.” Ackerman even dressed as a bear. Prior to both games, the fans grilled burgers and hot dogs while painting their bodies.
Neumann, junior Andrew Serio and sophomore Kevin Privalle created more than 20 ditties with small cheers for specific players. Wash. U. parents joined in on some of the cheers.
Many fans on the bus considered “Glory, Glory Wustl FC” their theme song, though a particular favorite was the song created in honor of senior back Libby Held.
“The Libby Held song was the best because we got so into it,” junior David Klein said. “Basically all we want is something with a beat that we can jump around and yell to.”
When the soccer team arrived at the stadium, fans serenaded them with a revised version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Instead of presents, the team called out player’s names, sending the Lady Bears into fits of laughter.
The Office of Residential Life organized the trip, paying for the group’s transportation, game tickets and a hotel room. The students and three chaperones left St. Louis at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, on a chartered bus for San Antonio. The Bears entertained themselves with movies, cards and homework as they crossed Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
“[The girls’ team] worked so hard the whole game, tackled hard and competed for every ball,” junior David Klein said. “They were an inspiration for us to work to get here.”
Every play elicited strong reactions from the fans. The penalty shootout against Lynchburg College was emotionally draining for all. “I don’t handle PKs well,” junior Stephanie Dresner said. “I honestly think I broke [Andrew] Serio’s arm holding on to it. There’s so much riding on every shot.”
The women’s soccer team greatly appreciated the students’ presence. “We have the best fans,” senior back Paula Davis said. “You can quote me on that.” The fans were allowed to join the team on the field for a short while after the awards ceremony and rushed in with hugs and cheers.
The fan bus continues a recent tradition in Wash. U. athletics. In 2008, three busloads of students traveled to the men’s basketball national championship game in Salem, Va. Trips were also organized for the 2009 basketball Final Fours in Holland, Mich., and Salem, Va.
Despite the runner-up finish, fans expressed no regrets for missing out on classes and events in St. Louis. “Wash. U. is awesome any way you put it,” sophomore Evan Winograd said. “I want to do this again next year.”