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Monarch Insider No. 20-ODU Fans on the Road

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: February 14, 2011
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Feb. 14, 2011

Monarch Insider #20 - ODU fans on the road

Monarch basketball fans travel to watch their team, no matter where they play

By Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider

The coaches for Old Dominion University's men's basketball team stride onto the court with only a few minutes to tipoff for every game, home or away. Their faces are always serious, focused on the task that's about to begin.

I was sitting behind the ODU bench for our game at William and Mary last Wednesday. Cavernous William and Mary Hall was only about a third full for the game - and more than half of those fans were pulling for the Monarchs.

As the coaches huddled, waiting for the end of warm-ups, the Old Dominion fans started a chant of "O! D! U!" that was the loudest thing heard in the arena, pregame. ODU head coach Blaine Taylor turned to look up at the sea of blue and white fans, and a smile tugged at the corner of his lips. Then it was back to work.

The Monarchs won two huge road games last week, easily over William and Mary on Wednesday, then a stunning 70-59 victory over Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday, in a venue - the Siegel Center - where the Monarchs have rarely had success.

For each game, a healthy contingent of ODU fans braved the road environment to root on their Monarchs.

Associate Head Coach Jim Corrigan said the players and coaches notice and appreciate the support on the road. "Obviously it's a shot in the arm, to know that we've got fans that care enough to travel. And some of them travel really far," he said.

"It's a really good thing, and for this game especially (William and Mary), because we usually get a very large contingent of fans here."

Corrigan reminisced about last year's William and Mary tilt, which the Monarchs won after a Tribe shot rimmed out at the buzzer. More than 8,000 fans packed William and Mary Hall for that game.

Wednesday's environment wasn't nearly as electric. But the ODU fans who made the short trip still enjoy coming to William and Mary every year.

"We love this team. And for what they do for us every year, for the enjoyment they give us, the least we can do is support them on the road," said Jerry Ortiz, who made the trip to Williamsburg with his wife Kathy. "Besides, it's fun!"

Kathy graduated from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, which has a massive basketball tradition. She likes the environment here, better. "There it's just so huge, all they want to do is raise money from you," she said. "Here, there's a relationship between the fans and players that you just don't get there. I enjoy ODU games far more than I ever enjoyed UNC games."

Sharon and Neal Capps sat in front of them, with their four daughters Angela, Andrea, Lexi and Colleen occupying nearly an entire row. Colleen was rocking her ODU cheerleader outfit, like she does for every game.

"The kids just love it. We do, too. What a great night's entertainment," Sharon said. Saturday's environment was considerably more hostile for the visitors from Norfolk. The Siegel Center has the feel of an oversized high school gym, with collapsible bleachers on either side of the floor.

VCU fans are dialed in on the game, however, and very unwelcoming to visitors - particularly their arch-rivals. That didn't stop nearly 1,000 ODU fans from making the trip.

Father and son John and Mike Bauswell were at Siegel, sitting with a small pocket of ODU fans in the far corner of the arena. John is a 1971 electrical engineering grad, and he's passed on the "bug" to his son. "Our team needs support, so we do what we can," Mike said.

As the crowd filed in around them all wearing gold VCU colors, John confessed: "It's a little intimidating, I gotta admit. But we had to be here today."

Count ODU fans Patrick Church, Bonnie Castro and Meagan Tribble among the ranks of "not intimidated." The trio sat, proudly wearing ODU blue, in the middle of the VCU student section, getting quizzical looks (and worse) in the minutes before tipoff.

"We're taking some grief, but in the end, when we win, it'll be that much sweeter," Castro said.

ODU Assistant Coach Rob Wilkes said it makes a huge difference having fans eager to brave road environments to support the Monarchs.

"It's invigorating, it gives our guys a tremendous lift when they run off the floor after warm-ups, run onto the floor after halftime, and we've got some fans there to supports us and cheer us on," he said.

"We always travel well, our fan base is tremendous. You see it in every arena, and at the CAA Tournament in Richmond. It's a big lift there, too."

At the end of ODU's convincing victory, a chant of "O!D!U!" erupted from the visiting fans. Senior guard Darius James, who said the team made a promise to themselves to enjoy the wild atmosphere on Saturday, heard the cheers loud and clear.

"It's really nice. Their fans did that to us at home (after VCU defeated ODU in January) so we knew we had to pay them back."

Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at brendanwork@hotmail.com.

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