Rather than sleeping off a hangover, spending a quiet Sunday inside or doing homework in the library, a group of Loyola students took a rowdy 66-mile bus trip to Valparaiso University to watch a men’s basketball game — courtesy of Loyola head coach Porter Moser.
For the second year in a row, Moser paid the way for roughly 80 students to go to a game at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center (ARC). It’s a stark difference from two years ago, when he wrote a column in The Phoenix pleading students to come to games at Gentile Arena.
The trip would be free for students, including a ticket to the game, but a Sunday game meant students would lose valuable study time for the coming week. Still, students signed up and filled the bus almost immediately.
This prompted Moser to pay for a second bus after some students missed out on the first one.
“I’ve been outspoken how much the students mean to this program,” Moser said on a teleconference Feb. 11. “Their energy has been awesome and it was a no-brainer. They made a difference. It was great to see them come out on the road like that.”
Blaring music the entire way, the buses arrived at Valparaiso around 1:30 p.m., a half hour before gates opened. The roughly 80 students on board were anxious to get off the bus and cheer on their team. Senior Max Mifsud, donning a Batman onesie, settled the restlessness by getting up and dancing at the front of the bus.
As gametime neared closer, the song “I’m a Rambler (Rambler Things)” played on the bus’ speaker system which drew a rowdy cheer from the students. The song was created by two former Loyola men’s volleyball players, Ben Plaisted and Nick Olson, known as 2 Yung ‘Blers, and has grown into an anthem for Loyola fans.
Shortly after, everyone filed out of the buses and into the arena. The Rambler invasion had officially begun.
“I’ve been outspoken about how much the students mean to this program. Their energy has been awesome and it was a no-brainer. They made a difference.”Porter Moser, Loyola head coach
During the game, Loyola’s student section, located in the upper level of Valparaiso’s ARC, started off full of energy. Despite a crowd of 5,148 on hand — the largest crowd for a regular-season game at the ARC since 2013 — Rambler fans engaged in cheers such as “We can’t hear you!” aimed at Valparaiso’s student section.
The Rambler Rules — rules all Rambler fans must follow at basketball games — also made the trip as fans shouted “You let the whole team down!” for all six of Valparaiso’s missed free throws. As the final buzzer rang, Loyola’s students chanted “This is our house!”
But Loyola trailed Valparaiso for the majority of the game, causing the fans to lose their intensity until late in the second half when first-year fan favorite Cooper Kaifes hit a three-pointer to shrink the deficit to four points with five minutes left. A Valparaiso miss followed by a Marques Townes’ bucket forced the Crusaders to call a timeout as their lead shrunk to 43-41. The break in action gave the revitalized Rambler student section a chance to show its appreciation by singing “Happy Birthday” to Kaifes, whose birthday is Feb. 10.
The team never pulled its foot off the gas pedal and pulled off a come-from-behind, 56-51 victory. Once the students filed back onto the buses, DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” quickly started blaring from the bus’ speakers.
“I think it was the best experience I’ve had at a Loyola game so far.”Nick Skipp, first-year biology major
“I think it was the best experience I’ve had at a Loyola game so far,” Nick Skipp, a first-year biology major, said. “Just being able to take over an opposing team’s home court is an amazing experience.”
Shortly after, Moser came onto the bus, grinning from ear to ear, and passionately thanked the students for their support. Throughout the season, Moser and his players have repeatedly praised the students and fans for the energetic atmosphere at Gentile Arena.
But without many student Rambler fans at away games, Moser has said the goal is to win and leave the opposing arena silent. However, that was changed at Valparaiso due to the strong showing from Loyola fans.
“We write the word ‘Crickets’ because when we leave, it’s all silent,” Moser told the bus of students after the game. “I walked into the locker room and someone goes ‘Crickets.’ Hell no, there’s no crickets!”
Moser left the bus to a raucous cheer and the bus pulled out of Valparaiso’s campus with the energy just as high as it was inside the arena.
But soon, the bus was all “crickets,” because of course, the students had class the next day.