The student athletes at Loyola try to support each other as much as they can. At volleyball games members of the men’s soccer and golf teams can typically be seen supporting their fellow student athletes. Supporting each other has become a huge part of the culture of Loyola athletics, according to junior libero Avery Aylsworth.
Loyola’s athletics department started the Rambler Cup fall 2017, to not only encourage student-athletes to attend sporting events but turn it into a fun, inhouse competition, according to Aylsworth.
“It is a blast. We love supporting our teams regardless,” Aylsworth said. “But we’re all athletes and we’re pretty competitive in nature, so it’s nice when you have a little something on the line with it.”
Each year, the team which accumulates the most points by the end of the competition will win a trophy and bragging rights. Aylsworth said athletes are going to games to support their friends and he enjoys seeing his friends succeed.
There’s no doubt attendance at Loyola sporting events is low, however, attendance at men’s basketball games is rising due to the success of their season. Their last home game against Missouri State University had a total attendance of 4,583. Other sports are struggling to get support, like the men’s volleyball team. Their last home game against Lindenwood University had an attendance of 423.
Having fellow athletes there to support you brings a sense of community into the athletics department, Aylsworth said. Loyola athletics has been really encouraging its athletes to support each other and get involved.
“It’s really nice [knowing other athletes are there to support you] because you build a pretty solid foundation and a relationship with all the athletes,” Aylsworth said. “It’s nice seeing them coming out and supporting you regardless of the sport. You get to know [the athletes] around campus and around Norville, [so] it’s kind of cool to see them in action. We are all athletes that specialize in one sport, so it is really cool to see each athlete at [their] peak performance. It’s a blast being supported and supporting others.”
About 250 student-athletes compete in Loyola’s 15 Division I sports, which men’s soccer redshirt first-year Lucas Bartlett said allows them to become closer.
“I think [the Norville Center] is a unique thing that we can carry in our smaller school where we are not as spread out,” Bartlett said. “[At other schools the athletes are] all separated and they don’t really know who each other are. I think that is a unique thing that we can have. I think it is pretty positive as well.”
On campus, many of the athletes spend their days in the Norville Center, whether it be to study, work out or sit with friends, according to sophomore golfer Justin LaFrance.
“It just helps all of us become better friends because I’m in Norville every single day and all of the athletes are here pretty much every single day,” LaFrance said. “All of my friends are here in the athletic department, so all of us having this one place that we can go every single day allows us to get closer and develop good friendships.”
LaFrance said he knows the athletes can’t travel the country to watch him golf, but that doesn’t stop his friends and fellow athletes from asking how he performed.
“You don’t really want to tell them bad news when you get back,” LaFrance said. “You just try to play better because you know they are going to ask and you want to give them good news. It’s never fun to tell them that you had a bad event and the team didn’t do well.”
Even though LaFrance’s friends can’t travel to watch him, he goes and supports his roommates on the men’s volleyball team, sophomore outside hitters Kyle Piekarski and Kyler Kotsakis and sophomore libero Jake Freeman. He said he knows having fans there can really change the outcome of the game.
“Support for the home games is what brings them through a lot of the times,” LaFrance said. “The [men’s volleyball] game last week [against Quincy University] they went into the fifth set and it wasn’t looking every good. Then [the fans] all got pretty loud and they pulled it out. I think it is a lot of just them knowing we’re there supporting them and being loud, it kind of hypes them up to pull through and play really well when they need to.”
Men’s volleyball head coach Mark Hulse said he doesn’t think the Rambler Cup competition is forcing the athletes to go to games, but that they’re going because of their relationships with one another.
“You want to support your friends at the end of the day and I think that is the reason they are here,” Hulse said. “I don’t think it is just because they are athletes. A lot of it is because they are all friends and you want to support those guys and gals in their endeavors. They are working hard and putting a lot of time into it and you want to support them. I think some of it is returning the favor. A lot of the times the student athletes are supporting each other at one game and that team is out at the next one.”
The next chance the soccer and golf teams have to support the men’s volleyball team is Feb. 23 when they take on McKendree University.