In the midst of the most successful season in school history, the Texas Tech soccer team is flourishing in its home environment.
The Red Raiders are 8-1 at home with an opportunity to tie the school record for home wins in a single season tonight at 7 p.m. in the final match of the regular season against Texas.
With a win against the Longhorns, Texas Tech would finish the regular season unbeaten in conference play for the first time in program history.
“Definitely, with a team like Texas, we know that this home-field advantage is going to be really important,” sophomore Janine Beckie said. “We don’t ever worry about our fans because we know that on a Friday night when football’s in town, those stands are going to be full. There’s going to be people around the fence, and they’re going to be loud and they’re going to be rowdy.”
For head coach Tom Stone, Tech’s home-field advantage is brutal for any opposing team to overcome.
“I think it’s general to any team that has to come in here because our crowds are loud, they’re rowdy, they’re proud and they’re Red Raiders,” he said. “We have a really soccer-knowledgeable crowd, really moreso than anywhere we’ve played. These guys know (good) soccer when they see it, and they make it a fun environment.”
Twice this season, crowds have exceeded the 1,500-seat capacity of the John Walker Soccer Complex when 1,584 came out for the first home game against Colorado State on Aug. 25, and 1,692 for the first home conference game against TCU on Oct. 4.
Texas Tech has ranked in the top-3 in attendance among Big 12 schools and top-25 nationally in each of the last three seasons (2010, 2011 and 2012).
“We’ve put the stadium right on top of the field, basically, so your distance to the action is the closest anywhere in the Big 12,” Stone said. “You could almost reach out and touch the coaching staff on the sideline if you’re walking behind us. The fans are really engaged.”
Senior goalkeeper Victoria Esson’s game is excelling on the Red Raiders’ home turf.
Esson is No. 2 nationally in goals-against average and has posted a school record 12 shutouts. Only four goals have been allowed in nine matches at home this season.
Tech is No. 1 nationally in both goals against average (.323) and shutout percentage (.778), shutting out 14 of its 18 opponents.
“Coming here, there’s so many families who bring their kids along from not even Lubbock,” Esson said. “I’ve met people from a couple of hours out of town as well who just came to see us play. I’m glad that they welcome families here and do make it family friendly.”
Stone has also noticed the transformation of dads into soccer fans.
“I think Vic (Esson) really loves the appreciation that women’s soccer gets in the U.S. because, in New Zealand, playing for a university team, she might be playing in front of 20 people there, and here there might be 2,000,” Stone said. “I think that Vic is really appreciative for the atmosphere that all of women’s soccer has created. There’s no doubt that she’s fired up about big crowds.”
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