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Retriever Fever and spirited fans lift UMBC Men’s Soccer to even greater heights.

The sun rises and crews get to work cutting the plush Riviera Bermuda grass, repainting lines and repairing divots with green dyed sand.

UMBC has the only Bermuda grass field in the America East Conference and it has to be pristine for the next game. Plus, with the growing success of UMBC soccer, there’s a good chance the field will see a lot more action throughout the fall.

As the defending America East champion, UMBC men’s soccer team is familiar with the thrill of victory. However, the 2013 season marks a lot of firsts for the team, including cracking the top ten in both the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and Top Drawer Soccer rankings. The team currently ranks 7th in NSCAA and 6th in Top Drawer Soccer, and have already clinched a spot in the six-team America East championships. UMBC women’s soccer is seeing similar success, completing the best turnaround in conference history by going from last in the conference a season ago to capturing its first-ever regular season title.

“We have maintained a quality program for quite some time, but these are heights we have not scaled before and this marks an exciting, new era for our team,” said Steve Levy, Associate Athletic Director.

UMBC’s unprecedented success comes at a time when soccer has never been more popular in the United States. With the 2014 World Cup less than 12 months away, that interest will only continue to grow. But if you were to visit UMBC campus on a game night, you’d think the Cup was just days away.

Our students and alumni have a strong tradition of supporting the UMBC soccer program. Each fall, “Retriever Fever” sweeps the campus community, bringing with it a surge of school spirit and camaraderie. Halls are decorated, events are planned and thousands of students converge on the campus for Homecoming week, all leading up to the men’s soccer match. This year, more than 1,700 attended the Saturday game.

“Every year we draw more and more fans and alumni back to campus as a community, while the events and support get better and better,” said Anthony Adams, Men’s Soccer Associate Head Coach. “I would challenge anyone to come to a men's soccer game and not see tremendous school spirit.”

Despite having fewer resources when compared to other top university programs in the country, UMBC has continued to consistently rank well in game attendance and participation. During the 2012 soccer season, the university was 13th in attendance nationally, and numbers are up from 995 to 1,228 per game in 2013.

Nowhere is this school spirit and support more evident than right on the sidelines. Each home game, thousands of students, alumni and fans turn out—complete with banner flag, rally drum, matching apparel and organized chants. Lot 17, named for the original spot where fans would gather before and after each game, has been a way for UMBC’s soccer fans to get organized. Following the 2010 season, men’s soccer saw a significant rise in attendance at home games after an appearance in the 2010 NCAA tournament, advancing to the second round. With help from an enthusiastic men’s soccer club team, Lot 17 was formed and is a now quintessential part of the school’s soccer heritage. The fan-based group often travels to away games and can be found taking over opposing stadiums with their cheering.

Soccer is a sport I am very passionate about,” said Edward “Teddy” Tibert, a UMBC club soccer player and lead organizer for Lot 17. “I think that’s what makes it great—we're so unique from other schools in the sense that the greatness of soccer isn't taken away by all the shine that football brings.”

This Saturday at 1 p.m., the America East Conference action continues as UMBC men’s soccer travels to UMass Lowell to battle the River Hawks. Women's soccer will host their America East semifinal game this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Retriever Soccer Park. For tickets and more information, visit www.umbcretrievers.com.

(10/30/13)