Park Avenue Army Brings New Energy To Jeffrey Field
It was the 49th minute at Jeffrey Field last Sunday. No. 11 Penn State men’s soccer led Syracuse 1-0, but it hadn’t been a thoroughly convincing performance, especially considering the disappointing draw just a few days prior with underdog George Mason.
Ominous thunderclouds and dreary conditions were somewhat metaphoric of how the match felt — on a knife’s edge. The Nittany Lions could — should — be dominating the Orange and setting the tone for the rest of the season. They are, after all, one of the best teams in the nation.
And the crowd knew it.
A shockingly large group had gathered in the Park Avenue Army student section. Neither the rain nor the previous result against George Mason, which boasted an even larger fanbase, could stop the hundreds of students that came out to cheer on the Nittany Lions Sunday night.
Luckily, the Park Avenue Army and Penn State got their reward when captain Pierre Reedy earned a penalty and promptly buried it to give the Nittany Lions some breathing room.
For the first time in what feels like forever, Reedy led his team to the “Jeffrey Jump,” when the squad leaped onto the railing where the student section could serenade them with cheers, hugs, and incredible vibes.
Reedy credited the Park Avenue Army for braving the conditions following the win.
“Obviously, the weather wasn’t great,” Reedy said. “For those guys to stick it out and to have that many fans there, it was nice to pay back some support with [the Jeffrey Jump].”
The Jeffrey Jump seemed to be a turning point in the young season. Andrew Privett tapped home a third goal just a minute later, and the Nittany Lions completed a 3-0 win with a stronger second half. The Park Avenue Army did its part with its patented PG-rated heckles and boisterous support.
“The fan support is amazing [this year],” head coach Jeff Cook said. “The Park Avenue Army, the atmosphere they create, and the community is coming out a bit more. I can’t understate how much the players value it.”
For Park Avenue Army president and second-year student Conor Camazine, the first few weeks of supporting the men’s and women’s soccer teams have been a long time coming. Camazine, an avid fan of both squads ever since he’s been a Nittany Lion, wants to make this campaign the best yet at Jeffrey Field.
“The guys really love the energy. They really wanted a packed student section this year, and I wanted to deliver on that the best I could,” Camazine said.
In years past, the student section at soccer games followed a similar trend to that of a decay graph. The first match of the year typically comes during freshmen move-in and is used as a propaganda event for Penn State school spirit. Then, the turnout steadily declined until it was just the most faithful supporters left.
It is worth noting that this may still happen, but the original base of the student section is enough to keep the crowd more than respectable. After a few weeks, the whole first tier of Jeffrey Field continues to be filled.
Camazine believes that this season will be different because of two reasons: A post-COVID need for sports, and the fact that these teams are really, really good.
“I think it really could be different this year. Before the season started, people knew these teams were very good,” Camazine said. “There’s so many more people in the GroupMe this year, and I think we can keep the numbers up. People are very sports deprived. They found out about the soccer game and said ‘hey, might as well go.’ And then, they realize, ‘Oh wait, these teams are good. I’m going to keep going and going.’
“It’s something really special that these two teams have. It’s not that often that you have two top-15 teams in the nation,” Camazine said.
The appeal for soccer games could also dwindle with the arrival of football season. However, the Park Avenue Army, Nittanyville, and many other student sections are all collaborating with each other in a more cohesive way this year. Nittanyville plans to host their check-in for the Auburn game at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 13 but won’t require fans to be at tents until later that night.
Across the parking lot at Jeffrey Field, Penn State men’s soccer will kick off against No. 3 Pitt an hour later in one of the biggest games of the whole NCAA season, which will also air live on FS1. Camazine and the Park Avenue Army expect quite the spectacle for the showdown with the Pennsylvania rival.
It’s clear that Penn State’s soccer teams have craved the energy that the Park Avenue Army brings this year, and the crowd is starting to live up to the “best student section in college soccer” claim.
“To have fans back, it really helps us in terms of our performance and it gets us fired up to play every time,” Reedy said.
Both Penn State soccer programs will play at West Virginia this weekend, and the next home match isn’t until Monday when the men host American at 7 p.m. For more information on the Park Avenue Army, you can follow the group on Twitter and Instagram or join the student-only GroupMe here.
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