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UNF fans energize players, crowds

As each Kennesaw State University volleyball player prepared to serve the ball, freshmen Curt Bender, Cory Sams and Nathan Cross rose from their seats and began screaming, hoping to distract the players and give the Ospreys an advantage.

Although the Sept. 12 volleyball game drew in a small crowd, the trio’s intensity and passion were felt throughout the UNF Arena. Bender, Sams, Cross and their friends took every chance they got to chant “Let’s Go Ospreys” and holler while stomping, causing the floor beneath the seats to vibrate and the other spectators to cheer as well.

“Well, before we came, I can’t lie, it was kind of slow,” said Bender, a freshman political science major. “But we livened it up; now everyone’s screaming, everyone’s having a good time [and it’s] upbeat.”

Bender comes to the games to show his school spirit and support the athletes, he said.

As a senator in Student Government, he said one of the main initiatives they’re working on is getting the athletics program more attention throughout campus.

Although he’s only attended two volleyball games this season – Jacksonville University and KSU – he plans to go to every sporting event he can.

One of Bender’s memorable experiences was the Sept. 9 JU volleyball game.

“[The JU] game was crazy,” he said. “It was close games but we shut them out. The fans were going crazy, the bleachers were full and it’s our rival school.”

Bary Rasmussen, senior volleyball middle blocker, said she believes the fans and student section have an impact on the team morale.

“It’s an audience that makes us want to play better,” she said. “If we perform well or have a good game, it will give people more of a reason to come out to games.”

Senior point guard cortez Riley aggreed.

“We become more active in the game,” he said. “We play harder because we got to win for the fans who come out to support.”

The fans mean a lot to Cortez because they come out whether the team wins or loses, he said.

For Sams, a freshman criminal justice major, the KSU game was the first one he ever attended as a UNF student.

“I had so much fun,” Sams said. “I plan to go to every single game after.”

Sams was a UNF athletics fan before he attended UNF. His sister was a member of the UNF women’s track and field team.

He is also looking forward to games against JU because of the known rivalry between the schools, he said.

But at the end of the day, Sams said he just enjoys watching the Ospreys succeed.

“[It’s about] watching the team win and seeing them be competitive,” Sams said.

As a former athlete, Cross said he knows how moral support motivates athletes to perform better.

“[The games] are fun and you get to hang out with friends,” Cross, sociology major, said. “But not only that, you get to help support the athletes you see around campus.”

One of the more exciting aspects of attending games is the intensity during a close match, Cross said.
Cross said one of his memorable moments was during a 2007 JU basketball game.

“[The] first JU basketball game I went to was a packed house,” he said. “Even though we lost, it was really cool to see so much support.”

Senior English major Diana Lopez remembers a similar experience at one of the JU games.

“When I was a sophomore, I think we set an attendance record at one of the basketball games,” Lopez said.

Lopez regularly attends the volleyball and basketball games, going to 15 – 20 games a year between the two sports.

Lopez got interested in the games after spending one season as a producer for the Atlantic Sun Conference TV network, she said.

Compared to other universities’ fans and student sections, Lopez said the Osprey fans present themselves with pride and dignity.

“Any of the heckling we do, it feels spirited to make it fun for the attending of the game,” Lopez said. “It’s not personal. We have very few sports; anything we can do to get our own [teams] going – it’s
worth it.”

E-mail Laura Franco at [email protected].

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