It was standing room only at Hillside Stadium on Sunday afternoon as thousands of fans braved freezing temperatures to cheer on the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack as the men’s soccer team made history.
The ‘Pack beat the UBC Thunderbirds in a penalty kick shootout to win the national championship — the first U Sports title ever won by a TRU team.
Chants of “I believe that we will win” resounded from the stadium as the WolfPack took to the field against the Thunderbirds — and fans didn’t let up, even as a tied game stretched past two overtime periods to a penalty kick shootout.
Talking above the sound of noisemakers and fans drumming on upside-down orange plastic buckets, game attendee Jason Fernandes noted the “passion” of the crowd.
Fernandes, standing alongside friends Anthony Conte and Bailey Deo, said he was attending to support WolfPack midfielder Marco Favaro.
“You can see the togetherness of the community for sure. Everyone's coming out. Everyone's wearing orange,” Fernandes said.
Conte said he had been attending a number of U Sports Men’s Soccer Championship games, and Sunday afternoon’s crowd was “the biggest crowd it’s been all week.”
“The crowd seems to be in it more today than previously for sure,” Conte said.
TRU student Jaycee Gustafson, keeping warm in the 0 C temperatures by sharing a blanket with friends Hayleigh Armstrong, Autumn Terwoort and Summer Headey, said the group was also supporting friends playing on the men’s soccer team.
“We wanted to support them in any way we could today,” Gustafson said.
“It’s an important game and it’s also really special because they are hosting, too. So we wanted to support our boys.”
Gustafson said there has been a good turnout at the WolfPack’s other recent games, but “there’s a lot of people here.”
“Just the excitement of everybody else — it just feels really special,” Gustafson said.
Hundreds of fans holding orange and purple smoke grenades rushed the field, celebrating with TRU players and coaches after Domenico Comita scored the game-winning shootout marker in the seventh round.
Cameron Doherty, TRU Wolfpack spokesperson, said there were approximately 2,400 in attendance at Hillside Stadium — what many said was the biggest crowd they had ever seen at the field for a TRU sporting event.
During the last 15 minutes of regulation time, there were an additional 1,400 tuned into the online stream of the match.
Nick Janusz said he hadn’t watched collegiate soccer for years — although he follows European soccer leagues — with Sunday being his first time attending a TRU match.
He noted the crowd was “extremely surprisingly enthusiastic and numerous.”
“When I'll drive by or see stuff for other collegiate athletics, you'll see maybe 75 or 100 people in the stands. … To have the entire park filled is very surprising and really exciting,” Janusz said.
While TRU’s now-defunct women’s curling team has earned three U Sports silver medals in the past, the national championship title is a first in school history.
?? MSOC | Domenico Comita. A Kamloops kid with a moment that will live forever in TRU history.#FearTheWolf pic.twitter.com/51BATYyY4r— TRU WolfPack ? (@GoTRUWolfPack) November 14, 2022