Commentary: Fan support fails to live up to senior class efforts in final home match against UNCW

Few fans saw it. But there was senior back Derek Buckley.

Never the fastest defender in the world, Buckley was struggling to keep up with UNC-Wilmington forward Devan Carroll in the 75th minute. Having already spent most of the match making last-second tackles on the Seahawks’ frontline, he could have let the speedier Carroll go.

But he made the tackle.

There was senior midfielder Jimmy Carroll holding possession in the first overtime. Carroll did not have a particularly good match Wednesday, but with a minute remaining in the first overtime, he saw junior midfielder Nicolas Abrigo making a run down the middle of the field. Carroll could have played the safe ball back.

But he made the pass.

There were others, too. Senior forward Alan Kroger making futile runs at the goalkeeper to challenge the possession. Senior midfielder Nat Baako uncorking a shot from 18-yards out to put a ball on frame. Senior goalkeeper Andrew McAdams making the save the Tribe needed.

All members of a class that could have checked out mentally at the beginning of the season. When Andrew Hoxie and Price Thomas graduated last spring, the Tribe could have accepted 2010 as a rebuilding year.
But the senior class didn’t.

The 2010 men’s soccer squad, led mostly by that senior class, has exceeded every expectation laid out for it at the beginning of the season. The College was picked to finish fifth in the CAA — instead, it has occupied first place for much of the season. The Tribe was supposed to fall to out-of-conference squads like Loyola (Md.), West Virginia and Wake Forest — instead, it beat all three.

This year’s Tribe team is the type fans can rally behind, the type of team that relies on toughness, determination and desire to win matches. It is the type of team that should draw huge crowds, the type of team fans should have flocked to see Wednesday night versus UNCW with the conference championship on the line.

But the fans didn’t.

Blame it on the rain, blame it on the game being played on a week night, but the attendance at Albert-Daly Field declined for the fourth straight home match Wednesday night. After attracting 638 fans to its home match versus Wake Forest, the College attracted 606, 502 and 456 fans to its last three matches, respectively.

Over the past year, the College — and the student body in general — has done a much better job supporting its athletic teams. The athletic department has promoted its events better, and other organizations have galvanized student support.

But the amount of support over the last handful of matches has been unacceptable with regard to these newly raised standards of student support. This is not an average squad. The Tribe is ranked No. 16 and No. 12 in the country, depending on what poll you look at. It has the sixth-best RPI in the country.

It also has a senior class which has poured its heart into a standout season so far. It could probably live with the normal fan support when it hosts the CAA Tournament in two weeks.

But it deserves better.


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