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November 18, 1987 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Small crowds, 16-hour van trips and a shoestring budget: UMass women's team at practice
The Latest Big Kick
U.S. colleges adopt the world's most popular sport

SPORTS
major who stops shots just fine at 6 feet,
165. And you can't beat the exercise: 90
minutes of organized running up and down
the 120-yard pitch. "The physical dangers
aren't as great," says Frank Longo, execu-
tive secretary of the Intercollegiate Soccer
Association of America. "But it's still
rough enough that it's not a sissy game."
Recognition, please: University and fan sup-
port, while growing, remains uneven. In-
diana has access to a private plane now, a
$4 million stadium and its own cheerlead-
ing squad. But UMass, despite a women's
team that has reached the Division I Final
Four the last four years, draws only about
50 fans to a regular-season game. When
the team organized seven years ago, it
played on a virtual swamp. The UMass
women now share a dry field with the men
but still take van trips, some as long as 16
hours, to matches in North Carolina or
Virginia. "We're not asking for million-
dollar contracts here. We're asking for
[more] recognition," says UMass coach
Kalekeni Banda.
Soccer also suffers from a culture gap.
Foreign athletes who come to the United
States to study and play often hold a strate-
gic advantage over their American coun-
terparts. "In Europe, soccer is a way of life.
The media coverage and the fanaticism are
greater," says Arni Arnthorsson, an Ice-
lander who plays for South Carolina.
U.S. colleges can face problems blending
athletes from different countries into
teams. Europeans play a rough, aggressive
game, while Latin Americans depend more
on speed and finesse, according to Longo.
Not long ago, the colleges that won were
those with the foreign stars. Then last De-
cember, a milestone was reached in U.S.
collegiate soccer: a nearly all-American
squad of Duke Blue Devils beat Akron, with
its core of English, Irish and Scottish play-
ers, to capture the NCAA championship.
CHRISTOPHER M. BELLITTO with PAUL ROGERS
in Bloomington, JOSEPH GALARNEAU
in Greensboro, NANCY KLINGENER
in Amherst and bureau reports
IrTA-nVQ"

4

hen Jerry Yeagley arrived to coach
soccer at Indiana 24 years ago, he
had to set up goals and paint lines on
the field himself. His "team," a loose-knit
bunch of foreign students and local hobby-
ists, piled into station wagons, including
Yeagley's, to travel to road games. "You
could barely buy a soccer ball in Indiana,"
the coach recalls. But a lot of Hoosiers know
now that a soccer ball isn't just something
roundandsmallerthanabasketball. IUhas
become a collegiate soccer powerhouse,
earning a berth in the NCAA tournament
in 11 of the last 13 years and winning the
championship twice, including a legendary
1-0, eight-overtime victory over Duke. The
Hoosiers are even building tradition. "I'm
seeing buses and tailgate parties at the
games now," Yeagley reports. "Those are
really encouraging signs."
Soccer, once mainly a gym-class exercise
in U.S. colleges, is now a major intercolle-
giate sport. About 160 men's teams played
NCAA soccer in 1959, the year of the first
championship tournament; this fall 546
teams will compete in three divisions. The
number of women's teams has more than
tripled, to 259, since their first NCAA
championship in 1981. On a few campuses
soccer is the sport. "Soccer here is like foot-
ball at Oklahoma," says Harrison Cannon,
a freshman at the University of North Car-
olina in Greensboro, where the men's team
has captured the Division III champion-
Big time: UNC/Greensboro winning title
24 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS

ship four of the last five years. And at
Southern Methodist-which won't play in-
tercollegiate football again until 1989
-the homecoming game this year was, yes,
soccer-accompanied by floats, a corona-
tion, a half-time show by the band and a lot
of alumni trying to learn the game's rules.
Why has the world's most popular sport
finally hit it big on U.S. campuses? Partly
because soccer is inexpensive: all you need
is sneakers, a ball and some open space.
Partly because many children of both sexes
have been playing and learning the sport
since elementary school. Since agility
counts as much as strength, the short or
slight can make the team. "You don't
have to be 6-7 and weigh 240 to play," says
Greensboro goalie Tony Hannum, a history

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