Cat Scratches: UK Soccer Complex -- Home of Big Crowds

Oct. 6, 2009

As the fall temperatures start to roll into the Bluegrass and the leaves start to change colors, it means that football season is starting to pick up in Kentucky.

Well, it is not just football season in Lexington, as several UK fall sports are off to running starts to the 2009 campaign. And with those hot starts, UK fans pack the stadiums and arenas in support of the Wildcats.

That is no different for UK soccer. Every year, the UK men's and women's soccer programs are treated to some of the best fan support in collegiate soccer, with fans routinely filling the stands in the picturesque stadium off Alumni Drive.

The crowds in 2009 have been no different, as the men's team leads Conference USA in attendance and the women's program ranks fourth in the fan-crazy Southeastern Conference.

"Our fans here are unbelievable, game in and game out, they show and support the team to the max," UK men's head coach Ian Collins said. "Our students have always been the mainstay of our crowd and all of us are extremely grateful to them for their support both when things are going well but also when things are not. Lots of places in college sports have `fair weather' fans or frontrunners, but ours are loyal and true. The UK Soccer Complex has become a great place to play and without a doubt our fans are the reason for that."

With six home dates so far in 2009, Collins' club leads the league with an average of 1,195 fans per game, the only program in the conference to average over 1,000. And two of the last four seasons, UK has finished the year as the league leader, pacing C-USA in 2005 and 2007.

The Wildcats led the league in 2005 with 969 fans per game, ranked third in 2006 with 742 fans per game and checked in with a league-leading 888 fans per game in 2007. Last season, UK ranked second in C-USA with 992 fans per game.

The attendance success hasn't been limited to the men's program, as the women have had more than 1,000 fans at five of eight home dates this season. Women's games have averaged 1,063 fans per game, checking in fourth in the SEC.

"Obviously we're very pleased with the number of fans coming to the games," UK first-year women's soccer head coach Jon Lipisitz said. "As of right now, it's an all-time record for women's soccer at UK and we need that support. We have a young team that's fighting to get in the victory column. The more fans that come, if they'll just support us and keep screaming for us and know how hard we're working, that'll help put us over the top and we appreciate all the support we get."

Some of the attendance success can be attributed to on-the field success, as the men's team have gotten off to a 7-3 start that has seen UK climb to a school-record No. 13 in the top-25 polls. With an offense that has netted 15 goals in 10 games and allowed only a 0.89 goals-against average, the men's soccer team has given the fans much to cheer about during its home dates.

"We have unbelievable fans," said UK junior midfielder C.J. Tappel, a native of Lexington, Ky. "They can break down the visiting team. We get thousands of fans out for each game and we love playing in front of them. It means a lot to me to play in front of my hometown crowd. As a young guy who was just starting to get involved with the game, I would come out to the UK games. I always wanted to be a big-time player at UK and to have the chance to do it with my family supporting me and everything it is just a great opportunity."

The women can also feel the effect of good fan support, as several times this season the students section behind the goal has been packed to capacity, with students routinely painting their chests in support of the club.

"The fan support has been amazing this year," UK senior Julie Hull said. "I've had the opportunity to play in front of larger crowds than I've ever played in front of before and seen people come painted up and harass the other teams. It's a great atmosphere to play in front of and we really appreciate the support."

Wednesday, men's soccer hosts C-USA power Tulsa, the defending league champions at 7 p.m. EDT at the UK Soccer Complex. The Wildcats fell to the Golden Hurricane twice in 2008, including a penalty-kick loss in Dallas at the C-USA Tournament Championship game. With a hardened Tulsa team visiting Lexington on Wednesday, UK will count on its 12th man in upending the conference frontrunner.

"It is very important (to have good fan support Wednesday against Tulsa)," Tappel said. "We are 0-2 in the league right now and we need a boost going into the rest of the league, especially since only four teams get into the conference tournament. We need the fans to help boost us."

The women, led by goalkeeper Sydney Hiance's 0.70 goals-against average, return to action Friday, hosting league power LSU at the UK Soccer Complex. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. EDT.