SE: K-State Fans Set Record in Soccer Team's Inaugural Home Match

Before the season, K-State soccer players and coaches stressed the importance of learning in defeat. Friday night’s 2-1 loss to Northern Iowa in the Wildcats’ inaugural home opener offered plenty of lessons. 

Lesson No. 1: Wildcat fans are enthused about the new addition to K-State Athletics. K-State drew 2,403 fans to the historic match, a number that ranks sixth among Big 12 member schools for the largest crowds in school history. (As a first-year program, K-State will not play a Big 12 schedule until next season.)

“I don’t think anyone expected it to be this big. It’s amazing and it definitely helps you,” sophomore forward Tatum Wagner said of the crowd. “Coach (Mike Dibbini) said they act as our 12th man, and I think it’s definitely an advantage to play at home with all these fans.”

The fan total also broke the Division I attendance record in the state of Kansas — set by KU in 2014 — by nearly 1,000 people. 

“I didn’t think there was going to be as many people as there were,” freshman Dora Gallo said, “but I’m glad that we have family coming out and supporting us.”

The record-setting crowd proved that while some may be new to the sport, cheering on the Wildcats is in their blood. 

“It was great to see a huge crowd out here for support. I think the game of soccer itself brings a lot of support and we’re very excited about it,” Dibbini said. “I did not expect that many, but that’s great. It shows the support. Now, hopefully we get continued support as we move forward.”

The K-State student section, dubbed the “Cats Den,” showed up in full force as well. Hundreds of students packed the south end of the stands with cowbells and various noisemakers, including a large drum, to bring energy throughout the match.  

“The crowd was awesome. It hyped me up. I was on the bench (early), and I was just glad that everybody was out here supporting us,” Gallo said. “I kind of wanted to go over there and cheer with them. They were so great.”

Late in the second half, Wagner enthralled the crowd when she chased down the ball, won a battle for it with the goalkeeper and another defender before booting it into the net with 9:50 to play. The crowd erupted, flames shot out on both ends of the field and K-State’s deficit was manageable at one goal. 

“I was just trying as hard as I could because we needed to get back after a 2-0 deficit,” Wagner said. “We barely had any time so I was just working my hardest to get a goal.”

Gallo brought a surge of excitement in the first half when she ripped a shot from 30 yards out off the crossbar. Not long after, K-State, which will host Oral Roberts next Friday, nearly converted a corner but a mishit attempt erased the opportunity. 

“This game was basically a game of missed opportunities for us,” Dibbini said. “We just didn’t capitalize and they capitalized on their opportunities. We just have to get back to the drawing board and figure it out.”

Other near conversions would follow, each prompting an elevation in crowd noise. While close doesn’t count for much in soccer, it does let the Wildcats know they weren’t far from taking control of the game and in the end, winning it. 

“The ball just didn’t want to go in this game,” Gallo said. “We learned that next time we need to win at our home field, that we need to stop coming out slow and we need to come in and give our fans a good show.”