After senior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez scored the go-ahead goal against the University of Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, a faint “T for Temple U” chant began in the stands.
When the game was over, the squad walked across the field and waved to acknowledge the spectators’ support during their 2-1 win. They received a standing ovation in return.
While at some of Temple’s sporting events, fan participation like this is common, it is something relatively new for the soccer team, which used to play its home games at the Ambler Sports Complex.
“Although we’ve had home games, we really haven’t had the chance to play in front of our student body because, you know, we’re so far off campus,” coach David MacWilliams said. “This is a tremendous feeling for our kids.”
Ambler is about 45 minutes away from Temple’s campus, which made it difficult to attract fans, particularly from the student body. But the new complex, just three blocks south of campus, has made attending games more accessible for students.
In the four games played at home for the Owls so far this season, the total recorded attendance is 3,050. The combined total for all nine home games last year was 1,697.
“We play on Main Campus, so it’s something we can do,” recent Temple alum Pan Karalis said of the increased student attendance at games. “We have access to it. It’s not like when we were at Ambler, you know. Who’s going to drive 45 minutes?”
Players said the bigger turnouts at games allow for a more energetic environment and help establish a home-field advantage.
“The atmosphere at games will definitely give us more energy and determination on the field,” senior midfielder Dan White said. “It will make the home of the Owls a very difficult place for away teams to get points.”
In 2015, the largest home crowd the Owls drew was 700 people in their home-opening win against Penn State. This season’s home opener against Manhattan College drew 878 people.
More than 1,000 people were in attendance for the game against Big 5 opponent Saint Joseph’s. The bleachers were completely full, and spectators sat on the grassy areas around the field.
“Last year, it was a little bit, I wouldn’t say depressing, but depressing, when we got a big game and we get a big result, but there’s no one to really celebrate it with you,” junior forward and midfielder Joonas Jokinen said. “Now, the only thing I would ask for are some bigger bleachers, so we could get some more people coming to watch our games.”
The fans watching the games include current Temple students, Temple graduates and high school athletes scouting their college options. Many had not been to a game at Ambler, but already have attended a game this season.
“I mean the first game, we had to sit on the bleachers, floor, but I’m so happy for the team,” freshman Jess Zimmerman said. “It’s a nice way to take up an afternoon. Doesn’t take up too much time, but it’s still fun.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.