FORT WAYNE – Fans needed their stocking caps, blankets and hot chocolates to watch Saturdays soccer match between the mens teams from Indiana and Notre Dame. While that might have seemed bad news – it was 39 degrees and windy – it really was a testament to the growing support for soccer in this area.
Whats changing is Ive been getting more and more phone calls from the outlying areas, like Bluffton, Decatur and Warsaw. So were expanding, said Terry Stefankiewicz, president of the Shindigz National Soccer Festival, which played host for the match at the Fort Wayne Sport Club.
The love of soccer is spreading. It isnt just Fort Wayne anymore. The first phone call I got this morning was from Bluffton, Indiana, Where can I get tickets because theyre not selling them here? That was great and I told them to come to Fort Wayne early.
Defending NCAA tournament champion Indiana won 3-2 on a late goal from Nikita Kotlov, who is from Zionsville.
It was the fourth time the Shindigz National Soccer Festival held a spring game, and the first time it was at the Fort Wayne Sport Club, where about 1,400 fans showed up.
The summer Soccer Festival games, held since 2000, will begin Aug. 22.
Stefankiewicz, who awoke to a wet and frosted over field Saturday, only hopes Mother Nature starts getting on his side more.
It was no surprise to me what it looked like this morning, he said. Its a Terry Stefankiewicz-run Shindigz National Soccer Festival, and that always seems to bring bad weather. Ive had some people wanting to send me to Saudi Arabia so we can make some money.
No one complained once the frenetic action began. Even though Indiana controlled the ball for the bulk of the first 30 minutes, a Notre Dame onslaught included a Patrick Hodan shot from just inside the penalty area that ricocheted off the left post and into the net during the 41st minute.
Fatigue had started to set in, but we havent really had a result in the spring season and we really wanted one, so we came out pretty strong, Kotlov said.
Seconds into the second half, Indianas Tanner Thompson tied it at 1. Notre Dames Harrison Shipp scored on a 19-yard shot in the 49th minute. But the Hoosiers tied it again, in the 62nd minute, with a curving 22-yard shot from A.J. Corrado.
In the 83rd minute, Kotlov fought off two defenders inside the box and put a low shot past Notre Dame goalkeeper Patrick Wall.
Originally, I made that run and the defender won the ball over but played it right to Dylan Mares. He had the great instinct to get it right to me, Kotlov said. So I had the ball at my feet and defenders on my back, but I was able to just flick it over and it worked out (for a goal) as I was able to finish.
Hundreds of fans stayed after the game to get autographs from the players.
It makes me feel really good, Stefankiewicz said. People in Fort Wayne have always supported Indiana and Notre Dame. It doesnt matter what sport it is, people will come to town.