“It could be anyplace in this vast land where, on a Friday night, a set of spindly stadium lights rises to the heavens to so powerfully and so briefly ignite the darkness,” wrote Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Friday Night Lights.
On Oct. 14, the darkness surrounding the Weber State University soccer field was ignited, set ablaze by a freshly-installed, state-of-the-art lighting system that is the culmination of more than eight years of fundraising efforts.
The Wildcats (3-3-1) flashed across the field in their luminescent uniforms, clashing with the Idaho Vandals (5-1-1) in a tit-for-tat rumble that ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Vandals struck first as senior forward Kavita Battan found the back of the net from inside the box at the 23rd minute, notching her fifth goal of the season.
During the halftime break, Wildcats head coach Tim Crompton pleaded with his squad to intensify their efforts and look for openings.
“You’ve got to want the ball,” Crompton said.
Heeding his advice, the Wildcats stormed into the second half with their claws out as both teams fought for dominance on the field.
In the 76th minute, freshman foward Paige Stevens netted her fourth goal of the season, breaking through the defense as she scratched past multiple defenders to deliver a powerful strike from well outside the box to even the score.
The goal spurned the Wildcats on as the action intensified after Stevens’ goal.
Sophomore forward Madison Garlock narrowly missed from outside in the 82nd minute, her ball ricocheting off the left post.
Garlock ripped two more shots and junior midfielder Kelsi Tatton added one of her own in the closing minutes as the Wildcats out shot the Vandals 5-1.
With neither squad able to find pay-dirt in the two ten minute overtime periods, the epic battle drew to a close in front of a raucous, record-setting crowd.
“It was just a whole new level of intensity from the girls tonight, playing under the lights,” Weber State Assistant Coach Mike Manning said. “Even the crowd intensity … I love it!”
In the crowd, self-described Wildcat Soccer maniac and alumna Jill Toone gave the match high marks.
“The girls and this crowd went off tonight,” Toone said. “The lights and the intense action out on the field made this one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Go Wildcats!”
The number one ranked Vandals left the bright lights of Weber State’s soccer field with an increased level of respect for the Wildcats.
“Credit to Weber State, they’re a very good possession-oriented team,” Vandals head coach Derek Pittman said. “Their record doesn’t exactly reflect their quality. They had a good crowd, it was their first night under the lights and they were definitely up for the match.”
The Wildcats will now head to Sacramento State on Oct. 21 and conclude their regular season against Portland State on Oct 23.
The Big Sky Conference Tournament is set to begin on Nov. 2.