The Missouri State soccer Bears are undefeated and currently ranked No. 14 nationally — and the buzz around the team seems to continue to grow.
As the wins pile up, so has the campus and community engagement.
Attendance at home games has been a bright spot this season: the team currently averages 435 attendees per game. The highest attended game was against Omaha on Oct. 1, with 712 attendees. That game was also “Nick at Night,” an event to celebrate Nick Heun, a young man with an immune disorder that has partnered with the team through the non-profit Team Impact.
The buzz has been a benefit to Missouri State as a whole, according to MSU President Clif Smart.
“Anything that raises the profile of the university positively is a good thing,” Smart said. “Student morale and enthusiasm comes up — there’s that pride you feel in your university knowing we’re one of the best soccer teams in America.”
Smart said while the success of the team has helped generate interest, the efforts of head coach Jon Leamy to promote the team has contributed as well.
“I love Jon’s excitement and engagement in the community,” Smart said. “That excitement has helped build support for the team.”
The success has brought in new faces to games, including MSU math professor Carolyn Shand-Hawkins, who attended her first soccer game Oct. 13, when the Bears played Drake.
“My grandson plays youth soccer, and he was invited to walk onto the field with the team during the national anthem,” Shand-Hawkins said. “I’m not that familiar with soccer, but it was a whole lot of fun. I think we’ll be back soon.”
The team has engaged the university athletics community as well. Most games have at least one other Missouri State team come to watch the match, including men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, swimming and diving, and club ice hockey. Leamy said he plans to do the same for those teams when the season ends.
Both Leamy and associate head coach Michael Seabolt were quick to point out the undefeated run is not something surprising to them as coaches. Both said they felt the team was close to doing this for several years now, and it is all coming together this season.
“If you look carefully at what’s been going, this run has been building,” Seabolt said. “If you looked at Walmart when it started, you’d see a growing business and one you should invest in. This season is the same thing.”
The Bears play next at home on Saturday, Oct. 26, against Evansville.