Millertime: Crowding Out the Opponent

It was a big weekend for Pomona-Pitzer sports, but it was an even bigger weekend for P-P spectators. Friday night’s men’s water polo game against Harvard University and Saturday’s soccer games against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps proved how important a big crowd can be in helping a team get a big win.

Playing here, you get used to having no fans. The stands are empty, and it is the bench that cheers when something good happens. It is a terrible sports atmosphere, and anyone who says differently is kidding themselves.

It is alright though, because that is not why you come to Pomona or Pitzer College. If you wanted crazy, shirtless, die-hard fans, you would be at Duke. Here, academics reign supreme; labs overlap with game times, and Rains is the last place you would want to be on a Friday night.

But every once in a while, a game comes along that riles up the student body just enough to get a huge crowd out. For water polo, it is the annual game against Harvard. In stereotypical high social school terms, Harvard’s the popular kid—tall, athletic, smarter than most, but respected for being smart. Pomona is some mix of the nerd and the class clown. No one really knows who we are, but they all think we are pretty smart. We are comfortable in our own skin and love those like us. So when the big popular kid comes to town, you cannot wait for that chance to finally beat them.

That’s why a couple hundred fans showed up last Friday to witness a 14-10 P-P win. Amid chants of “safety school,” there was a kind of energy building in the stands at Haldeman Pool that spilled over into the water. That extra inch for a save by Austin Strong PO ’16 or the burst of speed for Dylan O’Connell PO ’14 racing down the pool on a breakaway is much easier to accomplish when you have the yells of your fans echoing in your ears. You do not even get tired to the same degree; it is as if the crowd’s energy replaces the fatigue setting in.

That feeling of pride in P-P sports surely rolled over into Saturday morning. If Harvard is the popular kid in school, CMS is like the mirror image of P-P, but evil—the kid who always looks off your test then brags to their friends about how well they did.

As Allie Tao PO ’14 rushed in for a goal in the first half of overtime in the women’s soccer game, the only thing better than her teammates dog-piling her was the fans running down the sideline to be closer to the action. Even the CMS fans found a sudden frog in their throats as they trudged up the hill back north.

Showing support for P-P on our home field against CMS is important. But the fans showed that it was even more important to make your voice loud when playing at CMS. As the men’s soccer team lined up to start the game Saturday night, the away side of the stands at Pritzlaff field was packed, while only a few CMS fans sat lonely and quiet on their side. Maybe it was the Monte Carlo party happening at the same time, or maybe it was having lost to the Sagehen women that morning, but the only cheers heard that night were from the P-P side.

The crowd roared as the second half started. As Erik Munzer PZ ’13 commented after the game, “It was in those first five minutes, with the crowd drowning out everything else, that I knew we had the game.” The boisterous fans fueled the second-half comeback, going crazy when Munzer finished a header to tie the game and going absolutely nuts when he buried a free kick to take the lead.

Dressed in orange and blue, everyone that trekked up to Claremont McKenna College on Saturday night made a statement about which school loves their team more. Some will never see a P-P game again; some have no idea even how to get to the home soccer field by the Farm. But in that moment, the crowd did more than enjoy themselves before Saturday night festivities—they helped propel the Sagehens to a 2-1 come-from-behind win to take first place in SCIAC.

If half as many fans came every week and were half as riled up as they were on Saturday, it would be the first step towards cementing our small liberal arts colleges with a strong athletic reputation. Opposing teams would not want to come play here; there would be an incredible “home-field advantage.” And that, right now, is exactly what P-P athletics need.

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