By Brian Rice KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Brian Pensky looked up at hundreds of fans in the stands at Regal Soccer Stadium Saturday evening and told them the night was all about them.
Indeed, it was. Tennessee Soccer welcomed its fans to the third-annual meet-and-greet Saturday night, an event that has become a staple in Pensky's three years at UT. It was his brainchild as a way to introduce himself to the fans prior to his initial season, and its success has helped build excitement each season.
"Coach Pensky started this when he came and we're really excited to gives us a chance to introduce our team" Assistant Marketing Director Mary Hughes said. "Soccer is the first sport to start, so it gives everyone the opportunity to get in here and get excited about the season and the athletics year as a whole."
Fans had the opportunity to tour Regal Soccer Stadium prior to Pensky's speech, including a stop in the team video room, where features on the student-athletes, including senior Allie Sirna, played on the screen. Sirna said the event is one of the things she looks most forward to each season and helps galvanize the team's support heading into her final year.
"It's very important to get out and talk to our fan base," Sirna said prior to an hour-long autograph and photo session with fans. "We love everyone that comes out to our games. This gives them a chance to meet us and that makes the experience in the stands more real, more personal for them and for us."
Pensky was excited to see the even grow in size yet again ahead of his third year as Tennessee coach, but was perhaps most excited that the event was finally dry.
"It's always a great night," Pensky said. "The best thing is, the sun is out. It's our first rain-free night and attendance is up. That's what this is all about, our you fans getting to spend time with our players and our players reaching out to the young fans."
Fans also took in the team's annual Orange and White intrasquad scrimmage following the autograph session. Young fans had the chance to observe the team's warmup from field level at the stadium.
The fans packing the stands for a first look at the team also struck Sirna as meaningful.
"It means they have faith in us," she said "They want to watch us grow, and that's always exciting to see."
THE COLD WATER CHALLENGE
Head coach Brian Pensky and his Tennessee Soccer staff answered a challenge from fellow coaches, one that the players were all too happy to help with.
Pensky and his assistants were doused with large tubs of ice water by players as part of the Cold Water Challenge, a nationwide fundraiser for ALS research. Coaches all over the country in a variety of sports have taken the challenge, which involves being doused with ice water on video and challenging fellow friends and coaches to do the same, while also making a donation to research to treat ALS.