The USC Aiken athletic department kicked off the 2014-15 school year on Thursday with its annual Pacer Fandemonium, an event held to gather athletes, students and fans in one spot.


Families, students and USCA faculty packed into the Convocation Center, taking part in some school trivia and showing their best Pacer pride. Teams from soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis participated in getting the fans to show how loud they could cheer, while the Pacer mascot, named Ace, joined in on the fun posing for pictures.


USCA freshman Cassie Torres, 18, enjoyed her first Pacer Fandemonium as a student, and said she went to games before this year; however, this year would be better.


“I did go to games before, and I think coming to sports games is really great because you get to meet different people who are passionate about the same thing,” Torres said.


While Torres prepared to begin her first year of college, the fan event was an especially bittersweet time for two senior athletes – Kim Beyer on the women's soccer team and Sheila Walsh from the women's volleyball team.


“It's bittersweet,” Walsh said. “I mean, I've liked seeing all the athletes and everyone together, but I'm also sad that I'm here, like this is my last one. As a student-athlete, I'm going to miss that sense of community ... I was worried when I came to college how divided it would be, but it's really just been a community.”


Beyer shared the same sentiment.


“I think I'll miss all of this, honestly,” Beyer said. “Just coming out and seeing all the athletes and seeing all the people in the community, I'll miss that. I do have a semester left, but I'll be coming to this, just not as a student-athlete. That's going to be kind of sad.”


Beyer's coach, Sue Vodicka, said the Pacer Fandemonium is a great way to introduce the student body to the school's athletic programs.


“Obviously, there's a lot of members from the community that come out, and certainly last year, we had a great attendance and the community really started coming out to support us,” Vodicka said. “I think this event is only going to enhance that. It's a neat event, and we appreciate Student Life and Athletics for putting this on for us. Yes, I do believe it deepens the connection between athletes and the community. There are so many times I meet someone who started coming to soccer because they saw kids here.”


For more information about USCA athletics, visit www.pacersports.com/landing/index.


Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.