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Loyal soccer fan sharesups, downs of past 4 years

Nov. 19, 1999

They must have thought I was an SMU fan last week as I stood to cheer the Baylor women's soccer team walking off the field after a disappointing 4-0 loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament. While the Bears walked away from their season-ending game, my four-year love affair with Baylor's most exciting team also concluded.

I still remember the first time we met . . . I was a quiet freshman looking for something to do one afternoon, so I went down to the soccer field to watch the Bears play Tennessee. They won 4-3. The crowds were a lot smaller then, and I easily found a seat just feet away from the sideline.

The action was fast and furious, never slowing down to take a breath. The running, kicking, sliding and tackling during the game contrasted sharply with the jumping, hugging, crying and laughing when a goal was scored. The tactics were brilliant, the competition thrilling. I reveled in the excitement for hours after the match.

My decision to come back for another game was easy to make. In fact, I made it a point to keep a schedule taped to the side of my dorm room bed, always reminding me of the next opportunity to see my team play.

It wasn't until the next year that I realized my first encounter with the team was the team's first encounter with NCAA competition. My first year at college was also the first year for women's soccer at Baylor University. This realization just added to my affections; I had found my sport.

Perhaps the greatest attribute to the team is its habit of winning. In its four years of existence, the team has notched 60 wins and only 21 losses and clinched the first-ever Big 12 championship for Baylor.

In fact, at the Oct. 30 Texas Tech swamp game, I heard a fan exclaim after a goal, 'I love these girls! They know how to win!'

I kept coming back. I was hooked. I estimate that I have seen between 30 and 40 soccer games during my tenure at Baylor, and seldom have I been disappointed.

I drove all over Texas to watch them play conference opponents. But by far the most memorable game was the 1997 home match against conference-leading Texas A&M, when the 1,000-plus fans in attendance rushed onto the field after a miraculous overtime goal by Christina Nguyen lifted Baylor over the No. 3 ranked team in the nation.

That was the first time I ever embraced a member of the team, when the emotion of the celebration overcame everyone.

Consistent winning seasons and unforgettable moments attracted a large following and necessitated the move to a new field. I could no longer sit as close to the sideline, and a few heads interrupted my sight, but the action was just as intense.

Not surprisingly, the team eventually achieved its own rowdy student group of fans, surpassing the Baylor Line in energy and dedication.

But I was still there, sitting alone in the stands like I had four years ago. I never took the time to meet any of the players. I was their biggest fan, but they never knew my name. But that is probably best. I was the secret admirer, watching from afar and cheering till the end.

And I am still cheering today. Cheers for the running, kicking, sliding and tackling that proved your effort and determination. Cheers for the jumping, hugging, crying and laughing that proved the fruits of your labor.

Cheers to the team that never failed to entertain, that contributed unimaginable joy to my collegiate career. To the women of the soccer team, cheers!