Imagine this: packed bleachers, a massive mixture of green and white and cheering that drowns out your own thoughts. All of that, along with defeated faces filling the visitors section while Bearcats chant their way to victory, sounds like a great day for Northwest Athletics.
It’s been nearly two years since Bearcat Arena, Pitch and Stadium have hosted fans of fall sports, and the community has expressed its longing to return to these venues. Likewise, athletes have missed playing their sports in their respective seasons. For volleyball, Bearcat Arena is still closed until at least the end of October for construction. But, with a plethora of Bearcat sporting events occurring in Maryville this weekend, it’s about time for Bearcat fans to show up and show out.
This year, Family Weekend is headlined by the No. 2 Division II football team in the nation. The Bearcats will face Central Oklahoma Sept. 25 in one of the most highly anticipated events on campus. It will be 665 days since the last time Northwest football stormed Mel Tjeerdsma Field for an official game, and between the family atmosphere and general return of football to campus, it’s bound to be a fun day.
However, many students will be too focused on events happening on the other side of the hill prior to the game and could quite possibly fail to appear in the stands, though that’d be an errant decision. Yes, we all know about what happens in the grass lot across from the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse, where a slew of cars and speakers invade for the day. Students who haven’t witnessed a tailgate yet, prepare yourselves, but make sure you’re prepared for every other event, too.
Football might be the most funded sport on campus, but it’s not the only one. Northwest volleyball and soccer have contests of their own, and I bet they’ll appreciate some fans.
Volleyball, the No. 13 team in Division II, has two home matches Sept. 24-25 against MIAA foes Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State, respectively. The ’Cats are off to a hot 8-2 start and are looking to earn their first win in their new home for the time being. It’s always easier to support a winning team.
The abnormal site of Bearcat volleyball in Hughes Fieldhouse is definitely a sight fans need to see. Although vicious spikes and stray balls in the close-quarters venue could prove dangerous to fans, the matches will be a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. Once Bearcat Arena is repaired, hopefully, fans will never see it again.
The women will play at 6 p.m. both days, so fans and family will have an opportunity to recover from the soccer game Friday and the football game Saturday to catch another nationally ranked Bearcat squad put on a show.
Speaking of soccer and national rankings, Northwest recently beat No. 13 Missouri Western 2-1 in the last seconds of its game Sept. 19. Talk about exciting — Northwest soccer might be the most fearsome team on campus this year. The team’s physical play style never fails to put opponents on the ground when any team fights a Bearcat defender for the ball. It’s fun to watch, especially when Northwest wins. Watching the ’Cats rough up opponents en route to a win gets crowds hyped every time.
Soccer matches up against Missouri Southern at 3 p.m. Sept. 24 and will wrap up Family Weekend athletics against Central Missouri at 1 p.m. Sept. 26. As mentioned previously, Northwest set fans up for a weekend of endless sports, that is, if they choose to show up.
There’s no way around it; basketball and football are the crown jewels of Northwest, and perhaps rightfully so. They consistently win and duke it out for national championships every couple years. However, fans should understand that the athletics department is deeper than that.
The soccer team is having success it’s missed since 2011 and volleyball is ranking higher nationally than ever before. It’s time for fans — students especially — to start supporting these events.
Last year, COVID-19 snuffed most students from attending games because fall sports were nonexistent and winter sports venues restricted attendance. However, both of these excuses are null and void. Fall sports are back, fans are back, and now it’s time for spirit to make its triumphant return to Northwest.