Women’s Soccer: Bulldogs hope for huge crowd in home opener

Fresno State hosts Santa Clara on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium in its home opener. The Bulldogs are hoping to have 9000 fans attend.

Fresno State hosts Santa Clara on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium in its home opener. The Bulldogs are hoping to have 9000 fans attend. Roe Borunda/The Collegian

Fresno State soccer coach Brian Zwaschka has played and coached games before huge crowds. The momentum, the adrenaline and the sheer sight of being a part of those games, he said, are something “you can’t put a price on.”

But you can put a number. The Bulldogs hope to play before a crowd of 9,000 on Saturday when they host Santa Clara at Bulldog Stadium (7:30 p.m.) in their first home game of the season.

“Project 9,000” was conceived by Zwaschka as a way “to continue to create our program identity.”

The number, itself, represents the mark needed to break the national attendance record for a collegiate women’s soccer game.

“We do a lot of hard work, and I love it when the players gain some kind of recognition,” Zwaschka said. “We’ve got a great soccer community locally here. Thinking about those things, it seemed like a good way to kind of bring it together and be the beneficiaries of a great crowd, but likewise the community being able to take advantage of a great soccer event.”

Fresno State, which dropped its first two games of the season on the road, faces a Santa Clara team it battled down to the wire last year. The Bulldogs lost to the then-nationally ranked Broncos 3-2 in overtime.

In those types of games is where a big crowd comes in.

“’I’ve seen the crowd score the goal,’” Zwaschka said, quoting famous Chelsea F.C. manager Jose Mourinho.

“It’s really great having that support, and it will help us win,” senior Morgan Chastain said.

This time around, Fresno State hopes – and expects – to tap into youth soccer leagues with the futbol-frenzied Central Valley to fill in seats.

There are sparse opportunities to catch Fresno State in early action.

Santa Clara, also 0-2, entered the season ranked 23rd in the nation and is Fresno State’s only home game before it returns to Bulldog Stadium on Sept. 15 to host Cal State Northridge, which is sole home contest the Bulldogs have in the month of September.

The Broncos kicked off the season with losses to top-ranked North Carolina and No. 7 Virginia.

“I know that they’re a top team,” Zwaschka said, “and I know that we are capable of playing with top teams, so we’re just going to go out there and do our absolute best. It’s always easy to make comparisons to last year or previous meetings. We want that kind of close game, but we want to be on the other end of it this year.”