Attend a Pilots soccer game and you will be greeted by energetic fans yelling out one of many chants, shouted out in a familiar, upbeat tempo.
“Pilots til I die, Pilots til I die. I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m Pilots til I die.”
Leading the chants from the far side of the stands is the kilt-wearing, drum banging Villa Maria Drum Squad that has shown its support for the University of Portland’s soccer teams for nearly 30 years.
Founded in 1988, the Drum Squad was created by a group of Villa hall residents who wanted to support the soccer teams and has grown and developed over the years to what it is now.
Now, the Villa Maria Drum Squad has created lasting relationships with both the women’s and the men’s soccer teams and their staff. This year, that bond is especially close with the men’s team. Men’s head soccer coach Nick Carlin-Voigt has become a huge supporter of the Drum Squad because he truly appreciates what they represent.
“It was objective number one when I got here to recharge, reunite and re-energize the fan base,” Carlin-Voigt said.
It’s the Drum Squad’s goal to bring that energy and support to every soccer game. Jacob Whitfield, the Drum Squad captain, has been bringing that energy for two years now and loves his job.
“My favorite part about being on the Drum Squad is being able to support the team on the road,” Whitfield said. “Some of the best memories I’ve had are the road games that we get to go to.”
The Drum Squad doesn’t just stay in Portland to support the teams. Any chance they get they’ll go on the road to cheer on the teams. Whitfield has put in more than $400 of his own money to help the Drum Squad. Generous donations from UP alumni and supporters of the drum squad contribute to their funds as well. Just last week, the Drum Squad raised $4,000 through a GoFundMe account to cheer on the men’s team to two victories at USF and Santa Clara during their first weekend of Fall Break.
Previous trips for the Drum Squad also include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Gonzaga, Seattle and even Nebraska a few years ago.
The support from the Drum Squad means a lot to the players as well.
“The best part of playing in front of the Drum Squad has to be the constant energy that they bring to the game. They create an environment that is the best in the country,” goalie Paul Christensen said.
The support leaves a lot of athletes feeling like they want to give back. The men’s team will often attends Villa Maria events like the annual FIFA for Freedom tournament and some players even coach the annual Villa vs. Christie soccer game.
“We have done a couple of events with Villa outside of soccer. Mostly just trying to show our appreciation for their support,” Christensen said. “They do so much for us, so we love the opportunity to return the favor whenever we can.”
The relationship between the Drum Squad and the soccer team is extremely strong and only growing closer. The almost 30 year tradition will continue to be fueled with energy and love for UP athletics.
“We have the best fans in the country,” Carlin-Voigt said.