The Sorority Challenge brings new fans to ASU men's tennis

Sun Devil tennis has found a new and creative way to expand its fan base

In order to expand its fan base, ASU men’s tennis has brought a new tradition to the Whiteman Tennis Center: the Sorority Challenge.

All season long, select sororities have attended matches to cheer on the Sun Devils. The challenge comes in two parts: best theme and highest attendance. At the end of the season, one sorority will win $1,000 if voted best theme, and another sorority will win $1,000 based on highest attendance.

The team established the challenge to bring a new group of people to its matches. 

Head coach Matt Hill watched the concept of the challenge bloom at Mississippi State, where he was an assistant coach for five years. 

When he made the transition to become the University of South Florida tennis coach, he brought the challenge with him. While it didn’t do as well there, he knows how important a community like Greek life is at ASU.

Bringing the challenge to ASU during the Sun Devils' first year back as a Division I team has helped get the Sun Devils more acquainted with the student body. 

“I mean, look, we are always trying to think of creative ways to get the student body involved,” Hill said. “You know there (Mississippi State and USF), the girls loved it, and we are intelligent enough to know if we get the girls here, the guys typically come too. It’s a pretty simple way to get a good crowd out.”

When Hill introduced the challenge, the team was excited about finding new ways to have students attend its matches.

“We thought it was just fun to have a bigger crowd,” senior Michael Geerts said. “We’ve seen some crowd from the girl’s team here at ASU, but we are still trying to get a bigger crowd and really involve the community."

The challenge was introduced to the sororities via email, and if they were interested, the players had the chance to personally go to their chapter meetings and introduce themselves to the women while explaining the challenge in full. 

“You kind of like talk about it or send emails, but it’s not the same,” Geerts said. “The girls were very excited, and we are happy they are here to support us.”

Five sororities agreed to participate in this season’s challenge including Delta Zeta, Alpha Gamma Delta, Chi Omega, Pi Beta Phi and Delta Gamma

“They (the men's team) told me about the idea that they are trying to get more audience participation, and I was like 'well I can try and get them (Chi Omega) to come,'" Chi Omega sister and sports and media studies freshman Lily Birmingham said. "So we just joined in, hopped on the bandwagon."

Chi Omega's participation helped ASU men’s tennis reach its highest attended match of the season against UCLA on April 13, where 432 fans attended to cheer on the Sun Devils. 

“I know a lot of people showed up for our UCLA,”  freshman William Kirkman said. “I could really see them in the stands. I know it’s good when they stand out in the stands."

The addition of attendance at the matches provides the team with extra support. This is vital to both the fan experience at the Whiteman Tennis Center and the team's success.

“When you are playing at home and have the crowd behind you pushing you, it takes your desire to win, your desire to keep going, to another level – something that is impossible to manufacture any other way," Hill said.

The different sororities worked to come up with creative themes for their respective matches. 

Delta Zeta, whose match was on Feb. 10 against Cal Poly, went with a Valentine's Day theme: "Delta Zeta LOVES Tennis." The women showed up dressed in red and pink and came with handmade heart signs. While others such as Chi Omega went with a tennis-themed match and dressed in all white to represent the Wimbledon Championship.

Delta Gamma will participate in the final day of the Sorority Challenge on Saturday, April 21, when the Sun Devils take on UA in the two teams' first matchup in 10 years. 

"We are grateful that the community and student body and alumni (have) responded,” Hill said.


Reach the reporter at skbrisen@asu.edu or follow @sophiabriseno on Twitter.

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