ZonaZoo takes the party to the soccer field
Arizona's junior defender Morgan Mcgarry passes the ball up towards the forwards during the game against Berkeley on Saturday, Oct 13 at Mulcahy Stadium. The final score was a 3-3 tie.
One of the most interesting facets soccer isn’t on the pitch, it’s in the stands. The game brings people from all walks of life together to cheer and sing together.
This was on full display on Saturday night where, for the first time in the last few years, there was a true supporters section style ZonaZoo at the Wildcats’ game. Arizona drew Cal 3-3 on a wet, soggy field after going 3-1 down early in the second half.
The large ZonaZoo section at the game didn’t happen spontaneously, but after planning and meetings with athletic department staff, including head coach Tony Amato.
The effort to expand the ‘Zoo to sports other than football and men’s basketball began on September 5th, when the ‘Zoo sent an email to students about creating communities of students to cheer at non-football and men’s basketball games.
“ZonaZoo has been recognized as the ‘Best Student Section in the Country’ for the second time in four years,” the email read. "And though that is an incredible feat, we still have room to grow.”
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Among the students that answered the email were Janna Garcia and Peter Tsipis, who went as far as to meet with coach Amato in order to create the best experience for both the students in the stands and the students on the field.
Garcia jumped at the opportunity to get involved with ZonaZoo.
“One of the main reasons I came [to UA] was because of ZonaZoo. I really wanted a school with an active and energetic student section. Community and school spirit is very important to me,” Garcia said.
The soccer program is also an ideal place to get her start in community organizing.
“I really wanted to be involved in the soccer program,” Garcia said. "I liked the idea of joining a program that encourages students to attend sports [that] have low attendance rates… the soccer team has incredible players and I want ZonaZoo and the other students to notice that the soccer team is great and has awesome players.”
Tsipis, unlike Garcia, has plenty of experience running cheering sections. He went to Wayland High School outside of Boston. The student body had a Facebook group for his senior year, which began with 30 or so students, to coordinate. Wayland had a great team that year, and when they made it to the state championship, nearly the entire student body was at the game.
“I was the superfan of my school,” Tsipis said, “So I was always starting chants and coming up with fun ways to make our section exciting. One of our traditions was doing an Icelandic Thunder Clap like U of A does at football games. My buddy on the soccer team hooked me up with a buffalo drum and I wanted to try to hype our boys up. It caught on very quickly and even parents were joining in.”
Both students came away from their meeting with Amato – who recently became the winningest coach in program history in just his sixth season – inspired.
“We talked about the upcoming games and the vision Coach Amato has for the cheering section,” Garcia said. “He wants to see an energetic, loud student section that is packed with so many students. He wants a student section similar to Texas A&M’s.”
While that may seem like a daunting task, it’s not unattainable.
“Well for starters we just need to reach out to all the soccer fans on campus, especially before next season starts,” Tsipis said. “There’s a ton of soccer fans at the U of A but they don’t really thing about attending a match. I think if we can just get 20 people who are super passionate and will get absolutely rowdy, then it will catch on.”
Tsipis summed up what needs to be done, and it’s really quite simply.
“All you need is 20 rowdy hooligans and some flags and you got yourself a section,” he said.
And on Saturday night at Mulcahy Stadium, the ZonaZoo brought exactly that.
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