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ODU Students Rev up Excitement for Big Basketball Weekend

A voice comes over the loudspeaker, rousing Old Dominion University students from their lunch-time conversations.

"Are you ready to make some noise?" an enthusiastic voice asks. And with that, ODU Dynasty Dance Team members bound onstage, and a good chunk of the cafeteria explodes into a frenzied dance.

It's "Ice Cream and Cake" time.

The Buckweat Boyz song has become a game-day tradition at ODU basketball games. And student activities organizers used it on Tuesday to get students excited about this Saturday's rivalry game with Virginia Commonwealth University.

With a reputation for having the best fans in the Colonial Athletic Association, ODU students took part in a week of activities leading up to Saturday's matinee game, dubbed "Slam the Rams."

Senior sports management major Aseem Rastogi is a program assistant with ODU's Office of Student Activities and Leadership. It's his job to get the student fans, known as the Monarch Maniacs, as revved up as possible for Saturday's game.

"We're a big basketball school. We've got a great tradition of success," Rastogi said. "But with the Monarch Maniacs program we've really taken interest in home games to a new level."

ODU leads its conference in attendance for both men's and women's basketball. By drawing attention to the teams through student leaders in the residence halls, Student Activities has almost doubled membership of the Monarch Maniacs this year.

Rastogi says ODU basketball has been rated the top family attraction in Hampton Roads, and for good reason. The Ted Constant Convocation Center is known as one of the best small basketball venues on the East Coast. "It's like an NBA arena without the cheap seats," Rastogi notes.

And for students, attending the games is free. It's part of the reason why Saturday's VCU game is sold out.

Spirit Week activities are also geared to promote Sunday's Lady Monarch game against Delaware, which will raise money for greast cancer treatment and research through the Susan B. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Fans are asked to wear pink shirts.

Sophomore nursing major Lacey Luce is a member of the dance team. She came to ODU from Beavercreek, Ohio, and has been surprised with the level of spirit of the student body.

"I've always liked smaller schools. I really do like that you can get to know the people at all the games. But our fans have a lot of enthusiasm," Luce says.

Luce takes special pride that the dance team started the "Ice Cream and Cake" tradition at ODU basketball games. During Tuesday's cafeteria dance, she and fellow team member Aldeena Morgan gyrate wildly on the cafeteria stage.

"We've definitely seen a big jump in fan support from last year," Luce says. "Everybody gets really into it when we do the "Ice Cream and Cake."

The festivities continued Thursday. Under a bright, mid-day sun, a tow truck hauls in a wrecked minivan. It's painted with VCU colors, and has the slogan "Slam the Rams" spray-painted on the sides and the hood. So that's what ODU students do.

"Hit the hood! Hit the hood!" someone calls out to senior finance major Cameron King, as he winds up to take a mighty swing with a sledgehammer. Students form a long line and await their turn behind him.

The car smash is an annual tradition during rivalry week. What better way to show your school spirit than to twist some metal, King asks.

"I think it really gets the students more pumped up about the rivalry. And it lets people know about the game who might not know already," King says.

He attends every game, and is planning to go to the CAA tournament in Richmond. King says he's noticed an increase in general interest on campus in the four years he's been at ODU.

Rastogi says he hopes that ODU's sporting traditions continue to grow, especially with the start of football in the fall.

"Coach (Bobby) Wilder says it's his goal to double the number of Monarch Maniacs again this fall. There will be a lot of excitement on campus," he says. "But we've always been a basketball school. Weekends like this one are when we show it."

The VCU Rams better prepare to get slammed on Saturday.

This article was posted on: February 13, 2009

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