For three UNC athletics programs, this season's "home" games have forced players to adapt to a new environment.
The men’s and women’s soccer teams, along with the field hockey team, have been unable to use their usual on-campus fields for home games this fall. A massive renovation project is currently underway on athletics facilities across UNC’s campus. These renovations include Fetzer Field, meaning the soccer and field hockey teams are left in need of a temporary new home.
The soccer teams have played their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, while the field hockey team has taken to Duke University’s Williams Field.
Carolina Fever, the premier student fan club for all sports at UNC, has looked to accommodate these issues by rewarding dedicated students. Attending these games earns students more points now than before, increasing their chances at winning merchandise and men's basketball tickets.
In terms of fan attendance, Co-president of Carolina Fever Moses Musilu sees this inconvenience as the biggest challenge.
“It becomes a time issue for students now, especially with things going on during the week,” Musilu said. “It’s hard for students to get all the way there and come all the way back. A game that would have been on campus and would have taken maybe two hours has turned into a four, four-and-a-half-hour event.”
The issue of travelling to the games is something Carolina Fever sees as a major deterrent for students. Rebecca Griffin, also co-president of Carolina Fever, said the organization has teamed with the athletic marketing department to provide buses for all “home” games to shuttle students back and forth. The partnership also has resulted in giveaways of T-shirts and vuvuzelas to fans in attendance.
Griffin believes fan support has been just as strong as in years past despite the extra travelling issues. She said she has regularly seen over 300 students travel to Cary for soccer games.
“Personally, I thought it would be a lot different,” Griffin said. “But I think because we have been able to offer buses and we have increased the point values it made a lot more people incentivized, and gave them the opportunity to come out.”
David October, a captain and left-back on the men’s soccer team, acknowledged that the situation has added to the strain of the on-season.
“It is essentially an away game for us,” October said. “Although we try as hard as we can to be as prepared as possible in every situation, it takes a toll when you have school, midterms and the academic side of things ramp up during the semester.”
Despite this, October feels everyone involved with the team has handled things professionally. He also looks at the situation as a chance to expand support for the team to people previously unable to attend games.
“Most of the games have had a bit of a different atmosphere in that we haven’t had as many students at the game," October said. "It’s been more local supporters of the program that may not have been to the game before. From that perspective, say some kid wasn’t able to attend the games in the past because he lived too far away. He’s now able to. It’s sort of a nice change up, really.”
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