The Crew supports men’s soccer at all home games

By Jenny Hottle, staff writer
Friday, Nov. 9, 2012
Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com

While Kyle Renfro warmed up in goal Tuesday night at Ludwig Field, five Terrapins soccer fans made snide remarks as the Virginia Tech goalkeeper prepared for the upcoming game.

“Corner,” said one, as Renfro deflected the ball over the crossbar.

“Two goals,” said another as a player launched a ball into the back of the net, past the goalie’s outstretched hands. “Heh, heh, heh.”

Virginia Tech volunteer assistant coach Chris Rich looked up and grinned at the fans who were counting the number of goals the goalies let in during warm-ups.

“Clever,” he said. “I like it.”

It’s a friendly atmosphere at first, with fans bantering with opposing players and watching the teams warm up — just like they do before every home game.

But once the stands start to fill up, it’s time to buckle down and get down to business.

The Crew, the men’s soccer team’s fan base, has one mission: intimidate the opposing team’s goalkeeper. Force the opponents to lose concentration.

“They’re unbelievable,” said Terps defender Taylor Kemp before a game against UCLA earlier this season. “They’re the best fans in the country, and they help us in every way during the games. They give us energy. They give us spirit. They’re unbelievable, and we’re so lucky to have them.”

Through the entire 45-minute half, the packed student section sings and chants in unison, only growing louder when the opponent reacts to their jeers. At halftime, The Crew, led by president Adam “Stripes” Lauer, moves to the bleachers behind the other goal and begins again.

It’s simple: Yell, switch sides and repeat.

It’s been that way since Sept. 5, 2003, when a group of roommates went to the first home game of the season against UCLA, the then-reigning NCAA champions who knocked the Terps out of the championship game, said Mike “Stro” Mastrantuono, one of The Crew’s co-founders and a 2007 alumnus.

They decided to stand in the bleachers behind the goals, where they made small talk with the Bruins goalkeeper — and kept him distracted into the game.

“Some people liked what we were doing,” said Mastrantuono, “and the rest is history, as they say.”

Initially, The Crew was composed of 30 members. Today, about 3,000 students call themselves The Crew, Lauer said.

The group’s members and alumni tailgate before every home game and travel to at least two away games a season, Lauer said. A group of Crew members will be at tonight’s ACC semifinal game against Clemson in Germantown.

“Every school has their own group of fans, but none provide the same experience as The Crew,” said Tim Bowen, a senior kinesiology major. “I’ve participated in The Crew’s road trip game every season, and none that I’ve seen come close.”

At away games, they’re often hated — but respected — by opposing fans. They’ve learned to stick together, avoid interacting with other fans and just cheer on the Terps. Their cheers are more pro-Maryland than against the other team at away games, Lauer said.

Even at home games, The Crew tries to keep cheers at an elementary-age appropriate level, said senior business major Eric Pass, avoiding profanity and ones that may be too offensive.

“It’s a kid-friendly atmosphere, and that’s the great thing about The Crew,” said senior Scott Kornberg, a journalism major. “It’s different than basketball and football games, where people are profane, and The Crew recognizes that. They’re really out to making sure that we’re positive, upbeat and represent our university the right way.”

That support and passion for the team has permeated the country, said men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski. Fans of teams across the country now fill the stands behind the opposing team’s goal — just like The Crew.

“It’s very humbling to know that the student body commits that kind of time, energy and passion towards our players and our team,” Cirovski said. “I think it’s a mutual love affair. We love them, and we would not be the same program without our Crew.”

Even some goalkeepers — The Crew’s prime targets — seem to enjoy the atmosphere they bring to the game, Kornberg said.

“There’s nothing like a game in college soccer like at Ludwig Field,” said Kornberg, who has announced games at other universities. “There’s people yelling, there’s people singing, and I think that some of the goalies actually appreciate that as soccer fans and athletes.”

The past few weeks have been bittersweet for some of the Crew members who will graduate this May, Kornberg and Pass said. Tuesday’s ACC championship playoff game against Virginia Tech was the last time the Terps would play at Ludwig Field this year.

“It hit me that Senior Night wasn’t just for the players. It was for me, too,” said Kornberg. “This university is so special to me, and a big part of that is The Crew. I have so many great memories of the games, but it’s not only the games — it’s about the people you meet, and it really is special. It’s a pretty emotional time for me.”

But having that diploma in hand doesn’t mean graduating Crew members are ready to stop any time soon. They plan to come back next year — albeit not as often — just like alumni members of The Crew often do, Pass said.

“The fact that [alumni] still come back for college games is pretty cool,” he said. “People want to stick around and come back in the future because it’s such an enjoyable environment. I can see myself coming back. Maybe not being as loud and as rowdy.”

Lauer, who joined The Crew in high school after attending a game with some players from his high school soccer team, will hand down the reins as president when this season ends. The self-proclaimed first Crew member to ever buy season tickets has seen game attendance rise every season since he joined.

“I really enjoy the atmosphere, and I’ve made some of my best friends in The Crew,” Lauer said. “I know as long as Sasho still coaches the program, I’ll come back as long as I’m in the area.”

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