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Mark Spoor | | April 11, 2014

They've got spirit, yes they do

umes-cheer-4112014.jpg UMES in a huddle getting fired up.

WICKLIFFE, Ohio -- No matter where you are in a bowling center where Maryland-Eastern Shore is competing, you know when they're bowling well. And, if you follow the team long enough, you know who's bowling well.

The Hawks have a very complex cheering system in place for tournaments. Each of the team's eight members gets greeted with a personalized chant when they throw a strike. In some cases, the cheer will get longer depending on the number of strikes in a row a bowler has, such as the chant for sophomore anchor player Mariana Alvarado, a native of Mexico, who's chant adds an extra "Orale" ("right on" in spanish) for each consecutive strike.

In some cases, they're more like a song, as in the case of sophomore left-hander Victoria Jones, who's chant is an old take on the 1982 Toni Basil song "Mickey" in which the word "Mickey" in the chorus is changed to "Vicky," or freshman Juliana Franco's, which is "Ju-li, Ju-li striking everywhere, striking everywhere."

There's "Sara, Sara, Sara in the house," for freshman Sara Pelayo and "Chimichanga, Chimi, Chimichanga," for senior All-American Megan Buja, in honor of her love of, what else, chimichangas.

There are situational chants. If everyone on the team strikes in the same frame, the team screams "Hawk pride." If someone crosses over for a brooklyn strike, it's "Pride hawk."

"I bleed maroon and gray," is saved for special occassions, like at the end of Thursday's qualifying round, when UMES earned the top seed for Friday's match-play portion.

"It wasn't like we won the tournament [Thursday]," Buja said. "But we were very proud of how we did [Thursday]."

In all cases, the chants are at full volume -- and we mean full volume.

The team says the practice is a team tradition. A lot of the credit for it is given to Maria Paula Vilas, a gregarious former UMES player who was a member of the school's 2012 national championship team. At the start of each season, the team meets to decide what each incoming freshman's chant will be. In most cases, once a cheer is decided on for you, it's yours for the length of your college career.

Buja's was an exception.

"In my freshman year, it was 'Go Freshy, go Freshy," but obviously that didn't work after my freshman year, so it got changed to "chimichanga," Buja said. "They were making fun of me because every time I would go to one of our favorite places to eat, I would always get a chimichanga.

"I don't even get them anymore, but it's what I've got. It's something simple."

The team insists that the chants are done not as a way of getting under the skin of other teams, but more as a way to keep themselves in the game.

"We're doing it just for us," junior right-hander Valerie Riggin said. "and sometime we can use it just to say, 'look at us -- look at what we're doing.'

"We're showing that we're proud and that we're happy," Riggin said. "and we're adding pressure. If we say five "orales," you can see the other teams look around. They know we're here."

After an outstanding day Thursday, the Hawks found themselves on the verge of elimination Friday after losing their opening match to eighth-seed Sam Houston State 3-2. The Hawks swept Fairleigh Dickinson in an elimination match in Friday's second round.

Head coach Kayla Bandy, in the midst of her first season at the helm, is a big fan of the enthusiasm.

"It's fun. It keeps them relaxed," Bandy said. "It keeps them having fun, because the more they're having fun, the more they're striking."


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