The intense love and support of some Troy students has led to the formation of an official pep squad for the volleyball team.
Keri Phillips, a freshman marketing major from Huntsville, and a group of her friends including Trey Riley, a sophomore marketing major from Spanish Fort, and Katherine Hafley, a sophomore communication major from Anniston, started going to the home games of the university’s volleyball team after Phillips came across the team’s Instagram page.
“The team seemed like they loved us being there, and they interacted with us, so the next day we went to another game,” Phillips said.
After showing their enthusiasm, the group was contacted by the team’s marketing department.
Phillips, who is an avid lover of the game and used to be an assistant manager for her high school volleyball team, said she and her friends were surprised by the attention.
“We were actually blown away by the fact that people were noticing that we were there,” Phillips said.
The group then decided to kick the excitement up a notch.
“The next week we decided to paint up for the game, and (Riley) painted a huge T on his chest,” Phillips said.
Riley said he was joined by another friend, who also painted himself.
“We had two people with full torso paint, and we had face paint and bandannas and stuff,” Riley said. “We even tore our shirts off.”
“The rest of us were just casual fans at first, but then Keri showed up with her insanity about women’s volleyball and got the rest of us started up too.”
Hafley said she enjoys the fun of cheering for the team.
“We were just a group of friends that wanted a place to hang out and be crazy,” Hafley said. “It’s a lot of fun hanging out with each other and to see (the players) happy, to see them appreciate it.”
According to Phillips, there are currently 10 to 15 students in their effort to try to attend every game and a few more who try to be there when they can, a major improvement since the group’s first game on Sept. 14.
“I think that volleyball is one of the most rigorous sports a girl can participate in,” Phillips said — “just because of how much effort goes into the sport, how much work they have to put into getting into a rhythm and communicating and just pure skill.
“It’s crazy what some of these girls can do.”
Hafley was a volleyball player in high school and understands the need of encouragement and support from the audience.
“There are probably many girls who feel looked over in the sports world because we just don’t get the recognition that football or men’s basketball does, so it’s just important to show them that there are people who care,” Hafley said. “There are people who support them and want them to do good.”
The squad has received positive feedback and support from the players, the school and others in attendance.
According to Phillips, in the beginning, the squad was nervous that the team wasn’t going to be happy that a bunch of people were coming and screaming during the games, but they’ve started doing things that have gotten the other fans to join, along with the parents and even the players on the sidelines.
“I’ve had players say, ‘Hey you come to our volleyball games,’” Hafley said. “They expressed their appreciation because they don’t get that support from the majority of our student body.”
“The parents have been really encouraging,” Riley said.
“The band has now started coming to the games, and T-Roy is coming,” Phillips said. “It is kind of like a ripple effect.”
In the short time since their journey started, the squad has established a few traditions of their own. One such ritual is when the squad members raise their arms and bring their fingers together to form a big “O” over their heads.
“We did it the first game, and the team actually started doing it back,” Phillips said. “Now we do it when they’re down or something to show them we care.
“We put up the O, and they do it back.”
The group speaks about future plans with joy and excitement.
“(We plan) to get crazier, of course!” Riley said.
The squad has banners and plenty of paint planned for future games. They aim to build student engagement by encouraging more students to attend such games, including basketball and softball.
“Volleyball is such an exciting sport to watch,” Hafley said. “It’s so fast-paced.
“I got to show my love for volleyball and show that to people who didn’t understand the game because it is a really underappreciated sport.”