Fueled by a record 3,296-person attendance at Folk Field, primarily made up of the Boiler Gold Rush crowd, Purdue beat the highest ranked opponent they’ve defeated since 2006.
Purdue (1-0) shutout No. 15 Southern California (0-1) 3-0 at Folk Field in its season opener Thursday night.
Even head coach Drew Roff didn’t predict a win of this magnitude.
“I would be lying if I told you I was planning on a 3-goal victory and a clean sheet,” head coach Drew Roff said. “I knew it was possible but I wasn’t relying on it. Even though I love my team, and I believe in them, I wouldn’t have predicted it.”
Another thing that was unexpected was the tremendous turnout of support. The attendance beat the previous year’s by more than 1,000.
“I knew that there was going to be more people than before,” freshman forward Naomi Splittorff said. “I knew that BGR was going to be a big thing, but I definitely did not expect to beat the attendance by a 1000 people, at all.”
Splittorff said she felt overwhelmed during warmups but settled into the game.
“I was like, ‘This is a lot of people, this is a little bit scary,’” she said, “But after that, I kind of got into a rhythm and I kind of just blocked it out.”
Women’s basketball Head Coach Katie Gearlds was one of the 3,200 in attendance.
“I hate to say it, but I didn’t come to a soccer game last year. I can’t imagine not making every one (that I can) now,” Gearlds said. “I wish we could take this (atmosphere) and bottle it up and bring it to every women’s soccer game and all of our games and softball and all of the women’s sports.
“I hear the students, they sound like they’re having a good time. It’s just a matter of getting out there and supporting women.”
Kyle Goeglein, a freshman in BGR studying cybersecurity, said the energy at the match was unlike anything he’s seen before.
“It is absolutely the most fun and insane thing I have ever been to in my life,” Goeglein said. “I have never seen so many people in one area for just one soccer game in my life. Energy’s high, everyone’s having a blast.”
The first half was largely a battle of the defenses, with the only score coming two minutes before halftime. The second half was highlighted by a stellar offensive performance from sophomore forward Gracie Dunaway.
The Boilers’ second goal of the game came 13 minutes into the second half from Dunaway, assisted by freshman forward Kayla Budish. The play was set up after sophomore goalkeeper Sara Kile made an impressive diving save to set up a counterattack.
The save was Kile’s second in one minute after the Trojans had multiple chances to find an opening.
Roff pointed to the goal as the most impactful moment of the game. Going into the half ahead is one thing; coming back out and scoring again before the opponent has the opportunity to tie it up is another, and it gave the team confidence, he said.
“I think we knew we could play with them after the first half,’ Roff said. “But to score that second (goal), that brought the house down. I thought the crowd was just going crazy. Our bench was really excited. And I think that gave us that boost to say, ‘Yeah, we really can do this.’”
Dunaway scored again with around 20 minutes left in the game. This time from right in front of the goalkeeper off a cross from fifth-year midfielder Sydney Duarte, managing to sneak it past the Trojan. The goal was assisted by Duarte and freshman defender Riley Knudsen.
The first goal of the game didn’t come until the 30-minute mark. Up until Splittorff finally pierced the USC defense with two minutes left in the half, the rest of the Purdue offense couldn’t break through the Trojan defense.
Purdue had two chances to set up a cross around the eight-minute mark but failed to. The Trojan defense stifled many of the Boiler’s attempts to set up a shot in the second half, either stealing the ball or denying cross opportunities.
The Boilermakers put up only four shots with two on-goal in the first half. USC’s offense, on the other hand, put down 11 shots, three of which were on-goal.
Splittorff was one of five freshman who played. Freshman defender Sabrina Blount started along with Knudsen and Budish, who had one and two assists, respectively.
“For their college debut, you can’t ask for much more,” Roff said. “Playing in front of 3,200 people, it’s your first collegiate game, there’s got to be some nerves there, right? And for them to come through and be dangerous and create against some very talented backs for USC, I’m so, so impressed with their composure and their quality.”
The game was a dominant offensive showing, but Kile’s six saves were essential to the shutout. Kile sat behind goalkeeper Marisa Bova, now a member of the North Carolina Courage, for much of last year, playing only 11 minutes last season. Today’s game was her first start in her Purdue career.
“She was up to the task a couple of big time saves,” Roff said. “For her first official start, she was tremendous. To get a clean sheet on opening night against USC, it’s an impressive performance by her.”
Purdue next plays Vanderbilt Sunday at 1 p.m. at Folk Field. Attendance is free for the game, as it will be for all home soccer games.