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Soccer: Athens Army excites at first game appearance
The soccer atmosphere on campus changed Sunday when the Athens Army made its first appearance at Chessa Field for an Ohio soccer game.
The faction, a 12th man-style support group, was brought together by O Zone president Tony Keffer. He pitched the idea to Ohio Athletics’ Director of Marketing Drake Bolon during Spring Quarter.
“I do this for a lot of the Columbus Crew games and my high school,” Keffer said. “I like to do stuff like this; I wanted to bring a different type of atmosphere to Ohio soccer games.”
Keffer worked with Bolon to start the section and market the group through social media.
“It’s been a good collaboration, and I hope to continue working with Tony to build this up and get as many members as we can,” Bolon said.
Both met with Ohio coach Stacy Strauss to promote the idea earlier this year. Strauss was impressed with the Army’s first turnout, saying it brought a lot of energy to the Ohio bleachers Sunday.
“I’m really excited with that new addition this year, and I hope that it builds and grows,” Strauss said. “I think we have a passionate leader in Tony. It was fun, as much as I was focused on the game.”
Athens Army member R.P. Kirtland, a freshman studying sports management, said he was excited to find a soccer group on campus after joining the O Zone.
The group consists of about ten members; however, they are looking to expand. Bolon’s goal is about 30 members by the end of the season.
Kirtland said he wouldn’t be surprised to see an uptick in supporters because of the recent surge in memberships in Major League Soccer clubs around the league.
“I firmly believe that the more work and effort we put into this, the more fun we have,” Kirtland said. “The group’s going to grow, (and) I perceive that we can probably fill (Chessa Field’s) whole middle section (of bleachers).”
Bolon said the support group is a great outlet for women’s soccer in the student body, and the atmosphere could give the Bobcats a competitive advantage.
“I doubt there’s many of these out there in college women’s soccer and I think it provides a great atmosphere for our games,” Bolon said. “We pride ourselves in trying to have the best atmosphere possible for all of our sporting events, and this is a great way to really showcase women’s soccer.”
Keffer said the group is concocting a special surprise for Ohio’s Sept. 7 matchup with Niagara. The group is working on purchasing matching shirts or scarves, and possibly claiming their own section in the stands.
“We’re going to be loud, we’re going to be rambunctious, but we also want to make sure everyone can see the game and enjoy the game,” Keffer said.