November 06, 2007

It all started with a car accident. On Sept. 28, a bus carrying the Villanova men's soccer team brushed up against a 2006 Honda Civic owned by Seton Hall freshman Brian Da Silva. At the urging of his friends riding in the car with him, Da Silva followed the team to the game with the intention of rooting hard against the Wildcats.

What started as a response to a fender-bender has quickly evolved into a regular feature at home soccer games, courtesy of Da Silva and his colleagues.

"I had a car on campus so I could go to physical therapy, and the day we were facing Villanova, the Villanova bus hit me," Da Silva said. "So I parked my car up on the lot, and we had these plastic fog horns in the trunk. We took them out and went to the game and just started blowing them. Then a couple of other guys came up and it just got crazy."

Since then, Da Silva and his all-freshman crew of Pablo Guerrero, Kieran Murphy, Chidi Ohaeri, Michael Nall, Fran Campana, Brent Schuko and John Freudig have continued to up the proverbial ante.

Against Rutgers on Sept. 30, the group covered the upper half of their bodies in blue and white paint and brought out the horns. The Pirates responded by scoring a goal for the first time in weeks and eventually went on to pound the Scarlet Knights 4-1.

The friends returned to the stands again last weekend when Seton Hall hosted Marquette, though with far less body dressing. That changed quickly enough as Da Silva and a few others left the game near the end of the first half, with the Hall trailing 1-0, and returned with a fresh set of paint and a few Pirate-like outfits. The facial-hair-sporting Campana even doused his beard in blue paint.

Though the group's actions may seem tame to some, they have become uncommon among a Pirates' fan base that has fought to keep its numbers up in recent years.

Da Silva, who played high school soccer at Seton Hall Prep, said his interest in the sport comes from his roots. Originally from Portugal, his father played soccer professionally. If not for the injury that put him in physical therapy, Da Silva may have pursued soccer at the collegiate level.

Ignoring general rowdiness, however, the stands at Owen T. Carroll Field have been filled past capacity for nearly every men's game this year. More often than not, some fans have been forced to take in the game in what has become the unofficial standing-room-only section on the left side of the bleachers.

The Hall saw 887 fans trek out to see the game against Marquette and 1,076 showed up to see the heated showdown between the Pirates and Scarlet Knights. So far this season, the Pirates have averaged 784 fans per home event. The Hall only saw about 435 fans per home game last season, although that was when home games had been relegated to NJIT.

One of the group's few complaints is that not enough students trek out to see the Pirates play. Ohaeri said the best way to change that might be to issue a challenge.

"We just want to be known as like the better class," he said. "We don't want to offend anyone, but we want to provoke some upperclassmen into coming out."

Ohaeri and Murphy said that crowds thus far have been primarily dominated by families and local supporters. Though they are happy that the team is receiving support, they said that an increase in student participation would generate more energy.

"We want to get the rest of the crowd into it," Murphy said. "When we chant, no one else chants. Where I went to high school, our soccer games were so crazy. I was surprised when I came and was suddenly the loudest fan."

Thus far, the group has also avoided creating any campus controversy. Nall said that the group tries to remain respectful toward the Hall's opponents, but Da Silva admitted that the group has been asked to quiet down already.

"Sometimes we get frustrated," Da Silva said. "The first 10 minutes of the Marquette game, we were making fun of a kid who had yellow shoes. We were yelling out his name, and someone from security showed up and said we couldn't do that."

Regardless, the group of friends has dedicated itself to rallying more support as the season wears on. The group also intends to carry the enthusiasm over into basketball season when it rolls around. The Prudential Center, where Pirates basketball will premiere on Nov. 11, has designated 650 seats for the student section. They have already won over another freshman, David Lako, who joined the group for the game against Marquette.

"I will definitely be joining in the body paint thing," Lako said. "It gets the crowd into it, and that's what Seton Hall soccer and the sport needs."

For now, the group will await the team's final home stretch, and continue to ride the passion that was kick-started by an errant bus driver.

Shawn Skipper is assistant sports editor of The Setonian.

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