Donning college sweaters, sipping hot chocolate from deli cups, huddling together with friends on the bleachers, NYU students cheered on the home team players as they sprinted across the field. Sounds like an experience unique to big sporty schools, but many NYU students enjoyed this experience as they gathered at Gaelic Park on Friday night to watch NYU’s soccer teams take on their conference rivals, Emory University.
For both the men’s and women’s teams, Friday’s match-up was their 12th game of the season and third University Athletic Association conference game.The men’s team entered the night with a 9-2-0 overall record, including 1-1-0 in UAA conference play, while the women’s team held a 6-4-1 overall and 2-0-0 in UAA.
The doubleheader event was heavily promoted by NYU, providing amenities such as free pizza, T-shirts and transportation back to campus. For many NYU students in attendance, these incentives encouraged them to travel to the Bronx to cheer on the teams.
“I’ve never gone to a sport event for my school,” said CAS first-year Stephanie Quiroga. “I didn’t go to any in high school, and I kind of regret not being part of that community. So when I heard about this event with free pizza and T-shirts, I figured it would be a good chance to start getting involved.”
The weather on Friday was chilly — it was 60 degrees when the men’s teams kicked off at 6 p.m., and it grew colder and windier as the sun set, dipping into the low 50s by the end of the night. But the cold didn’t deflate any spirits, as the crowd stayed passionate even as the women’s game extended past 10 p.m. into overtime.
The men’s game started slow. Both teams got off several shots throughout the game, but neither were able to convert until the 80-minute mark, when NYU forward and GLS sophomore Maxi Rodriguez scored off a rebounded shot attempt from Stern first-year Oliver Kleban. Although Emory made strong offensive attempts while trailing — including a shot in the last seconds of the game that forced NYU goalkeeper and CAS senior Grant Engel to make a reaction save — the Violets’ stalwart defensive efforts paid off, and Rodriguez’s goal remained the lone goal of the game as the team won its 10th game of the season in a 1-0 shutout.
“The guys fought so hard throughout the whole game,” said Rodriguez, whose game-winning goal was met with an eruption of cheers from NYU fans, so intense that the bleachers trembled. “Someone had to get the goal. It feels good to score, but whether it was me or somebody else, I’m just happy we got a result.”
Engel posted his fifth shutout of the season, with a heroic last-second save that brought the crowd to their feet.
“We had a lot of fans out there — probably the most we’ve had in the past year or two,” Engel said. “They really helped us push through the game.”
As the men’s team wrapped up a solid win over Emory, achieving its first back-to-back UAA shutouts in over four years, the women’s team took the field in front of a buzzing NYU crowd for the second game of the night.
For most of the first half, the women’s team was pressed by a strong Emory defense, and spent the majority of the half inside in its own third of the field. Emory took a lead on a free kick with 18 minutes left in the first half, but NYU quickly evened the score eight minutes later with a successful penalty kick by midfielder and CAS senior Maddie Pena. Though more scoring chances developed, with many 50-50 balls and several breakaways for NYU, neither team was able to find the back of the net once more. The game ended after a 20-minute overtime, in a 1-1 draw.
“I think we played really well,” said Pena, “it’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to score another one. We definitely had the majority of the chances, but it’s just the way the game goes — you don’t get it in, you don’t win.”
Although NYU didn’t leave the contest with both wins, fans were in high spirits throughout the night. Free pizza kept students clamoring for seconds, and at halftime of the women’s game, several NYU students participated in a shooting contest to compete for NYCFC tickets. The crowd cheered on as participants took turns shooting toward a flag, and Stern first-year Jackson Lee emerged as the eventual winner.
Overall, NYU players and coaches agreed that the fans’ enthusiasm definitely helped propel the teams forward.
“It’s great to hear the crowd roar when we score a goal,” said NYU men’s head coach Kim Wyant. “It’s probably a little bit chilly sitting up in the stands, but we felt their energy, and we really wanted to perform for the fans coming out.”
Rodriguez reiterated Wyant’s praise for the crowd.
“It’s nice knowing that the school’s doing a lot of things to get people out to the games,” Rodriguez added. “It’s tough because we’re not necessarily on campus for these events, but it’s great that people make an effort and come out and support us. I think it really does help us.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 15 print edition. Email Belle Lu at [email protected]