By PJ Marcello, Staff Writer -- firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Portland soccer is known throughout the country as an elite program with one of the strongest fan bases in the entire nation. But there are far more fans cheering than can simply be found in the student section.
The Villa Drum Squad and Christie Crazies are recognized for their ferocious display of antics against opposing teams, but the seats are not filled with just students.
Many of the Pilots' most deep-rooted fans come from beyond the student realm.
Pat Ell, an alumnus and current assistant director of the Moreau Center has witnessed the program grow tremendously over his years at UP.
"I went to my first UP soccer game in the fall of 1985 when I was a freshman at UP. There were, at most, 20 people watching the game – just a smattering of parents and friends," Ell said. "There was really no fan atmosphere then: no chants, no songs, no drums, no flags and hardly any fans. It was also a disappointing game to watch, and I didn't go to any more that year."
Over the next few years the program began to improve on the field and that is when Ell became a lifetime fan.
"As a fan, I simply love soccer. Sometimes it feels like an addiction or a doomed romance. There's no escaping it. Being a fan of UP soccer means quite a bit to me; it's a link to all the teams and all of the people from past years," Ell said.
The passionate fans of UP soccer span beyond members of faculty and staff as well. Many local season ticket holders come from around the university to enjoy the benefits of the Pilots' storied program.
"I have been a fan since approximately 1992," local resident Tim Briare said. "If you want access to great local soccer, the University of Portland is where it's at."
Over the years Briare has been able to observe amazing soccer moments and a fanatic environment that he could not get anywhere else in the country.
"I am a season ticket holder I have been able to witness National Championships and the type of attack soccer that Clive Charles started and Garrett Smith continues," Briare said. "And no other program in the U.S. can say they have a drum squad or the type of fans that we do."
Briare doesn't simply support the Pilots because of how they play soccer or their record each year; he is also a huge fan of how the players act off the field.
"Pilot soccer is great for the city, from youth to adult soccer fans," Briare said. "Not only for soccer but also how well they do in school. Our team is recognized each year for academics as well."
With a nationally contending team each year and students that strive to do well in the classroom ,there is a lot to love about UP soccer.
But what fans appreciate most is what Pilot soccer does for fans, which can go unnoticed.
"It is great how Pilot soccer reaches out to youth programs with soccer camps and other community events," Briare said. "They build community and spirit within the community and are role models for many young players."
Students, faculty and local residents have come together for decades to participate in this university's rich soccer traditions and to cheer on the premier soccer program UP has built.