Rookwood, Mavericks working to drum up fan interest in home opener

Vance Rookwood

Vance Rookwood isn’t teaching a class at UNO.

He’s just been doing some educating about the Maverick soccer team.

Rookwood and some of his teammates have been stepping to the front of their classes to tell their fellow students about UNO’s home opener at 5:30 p.m. Friday against Grand Canyon (Ariz.). They are passing out fliers and talking to people at the student center.

The women’s team has been doing the same for the first game of the doubleheader at the UNO Soccer Field, a 3 p.m. match against Northern Colorado. Free hot dogs will be given to the first 500 students through the gate.

“I just tell them, we have a soccer team here, we’re actually pretty good or decent at least, and we really need the support and we’d appreciate if they would come out,” Rookwood said.

The Mavs have never made such a push before, and Rookwood said he has gotten a positive response. Now, he hopes fans will actually show up Friday.

UNO has played in front of big crowds twice already — 2,581 for its 1-0 exhibition loss to Penn State and 3,133 for the 1-1 tie with Creighton last weekend.

Having all those fans watching, Rookwood said, inspired him to score against the No. 6 Bluejays. It was an exciting moment for the junior from Kingston, Jamaica, who led UNO with five goals last season.

Rookwood said the Mavs expected to do well against the powerhouse programs because they’ve been working hard in practice.

“We are overflowing with confidence right now,” he said, “because Creighton is a really good team and so is Penn State. We are neck and neck with both teams. We can play ball with the big boys.”

The Mavs, he said, won’t let down against Grand Canyon, which is in its first season of transitioning to Division I as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

The Antelopes were 16-3-1 last season and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II tournament. They were competitive in a 3-1 exhibition loss at No. 11 New Mexico on Aug. 17.

“This is Division I — everyone is going to be tough, I figure,” Rookwood said.

The Antelopes have the advantage of being accustomed to the heat, which could reach as high as 98 degrees. Rookwood said it doesn’t bother him, except for the humidity.

On Sunday, the Mavs travel to Missouri State for a 7 p.m. game. The Bears have nine starters back from last year’s team that went 5-8-4 and 0-6 in the Missouri Valley. Missouri State was 2-0-1 in the preseason.

Rookwood said he can’t wait to get the season started, and he hopes all those people he’s talked to at UNO feel the same. He thinks they’ll like what they see.

“We are a pretty quick team and a hard-working team,” he said. “That is our main thing. We won’t lose a game this year because we didn’t work hard.”

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