On Thursday night at Anteater Stadium, the Lady ’Eaters women’s soccer team faced UC Davis in the Big West Tournament’s semi-final match. Fans bedecked in the blue and gold bundled up in blankets and scarves for a chilly night, hoping to witness a post-season victory. Cowbells rang through the stands as Davis supporters rooted for their players, but Irvine’s supporting cast was also loyal at the midweek game.
Alumni Amani Walker, a men’s soccer standout from 2007-2010, was in attendance at Thursday night’s match-up rooting for his younger sister, Zuri, and his alma mater.
“My sister’s still playing here, and it’s always good to support the girls, especially when they make it to the tournament,” Walker said. “They’ve done so well this year. I come to [the games to] show my support for Irvine.”
The veteran is used to taking the field, and shared the importance of showing support for a team.
“[When you’re in the crowd,] you get to see the whole game and feel the excitement,” he said. “When you’re on the field you’re in game mode, and you can feel the crowd’s energy, and you can get excited from that. When you’re providing the support it’s a different feel to be a fan — to go all out and go crazy.”
Walker was not alone as he watched the women’s soccer team claim a victory and a spot in the Big West finals. Current men’s soccer team players supported their fellow ’Eaters and noted that they try to make it to all of the women’s team’s home games. Senior midfielder Bello Alhassan notes that his favorite player is freshman Cami Privett.
“The girls are doing well, and I think [Cami] has a lot of potential,” Alhassan said. “She’s a really good player.”
Sophomore Marco Franco, right back for the men’s soccer team, has complete faith in the team.
When asked how the women will fare in the Big West Tournament, Franco declared, “They’ll go pretty far in the NCAA Tournament.” Franco adds that the team’s work ethic sets them apart and it is their dedication that will make the difference as they advance in post-season play.
The highlight for senior Matt Edwards was CoCo Goodson’s free kick from outside of the 18. Edwards has attended every home game this season to root for his girlfriend, senior goalkeeper Kala Gabler.
Sophomore George Nguyen was thrilled to see a UC Davis player receive a yellow card in the second half.
Senior Josh Moas also likes watching the games and comes to show his support.
“There’s something about women’s soccer this year,” Moas said. “They’re very excited, and have a high-potent offense. It’s really fun to watch and I think the crowd really adapts well to it.”
Moas, a baseball player, understands the significance of a supportive crowd and declares that, “You really can’t go wrong with women’s soccer. That’s where it’s at.”
People attend games for a number of reasons: to visit with friends, to cheer for family, or to root for his or her school. For junior Dina Saleh, it is her school spirit that inspires her to root for the ’Eaters.
“I love having school spirit. I love being involved in something greater than myself,” Saleh said.
Every voice makes a difference, and on Thursday the crowd congratulated the Lady ’Eaters who earned a spot in the Big West finals and the right to home field advantage. As chants filled the stadium until the final seconds, the crowd celebrated a memorable win for Irvine.