Chicago Red Stars player Penelope Hocking signs autographs before the team's match against Bay FC on June 8 at Wrigley Field. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Chicago Red Stars player Penelope Hocking signs autographs before the team's match against Bay FC on June 8 at Wrigley Field. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Record crowd sees Bay FC top Red Stars at Wrigley Field

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By Xavier Sanchez
Correspondent

Historic Wrigley Field hosted its first professional women’s sporting event in 80 years when the Chicago Red Stars hosted Bay FC on June 8.

An NWSL-record announced crowd of 35,038  came out on a cool, rainy evening on the North Side and saw the expansion team from the San Francisco Bay area defeat the Red Stars, 2-1.

Bay’s Kiki Pickett scored her first career goal, which was also the first Wrigley Field goal, midway through the first half. Bay midfielder Joelle Anderson pushed the lead to two goals in the 79th minute.

Red Stars forward Penelope Hocking scored the lone Chicago goal in stoppage time.

“It was cool to be a part of it,” Hocking said. “People watch women’s sports, people want to watch women’s sports. It is just a testament to female athletes right now. They are killing it. For us to say we are a part of that is so awesome.”

RedStars Milazzo and Bianchi scaled

Chicago Red Stars players Tatumn Milazzo (left) and Julia Bianchi getting the red carpet treatment before the match against Bay FC at Wrigley Field. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Naperville’s Kayla Sharples and Orland Park’s Tatumn Milazzo were the Illinois natives who played in the match.

Among the game’s attendees was Trinity Christian College professor Tina Decker, who was excited to bring her two children and her father to the historic event. Decker is married to a Cubs fan but had not yet take her children to Wrigley Field.

“It is so exciting to be a part of history,” she said. “To think of Wrigley Field and this being the first women’s soccer game being played here…[we are] excited to see it and super happy to be here.”

“It is really inspiring and makes me really happy to see so many women on this stage,” said Mena Decker, Tina’s daughter.

Former Marist soccer player Kelly Ferguson enjoyed seeing the representation on such a big stage like Wrigley Field.

“I especially loved seeing the little girls in their uniforms with their families because it goes to show that women’s sports and soccer are on the rise in popularity here,” said Ferguson. “Great to see the amount of people that came to watch it.”

Former Red Stars co-owner Sarah Spain spoke on the growth of women’s soccer and was overjoyed to see each detail that went into the event.

RedStars Wrigley Scoreboard scaled

Wrigley Field hosted its first NWSL game and the first women’s professional sporting event in 80 years on June 8. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

“It is really incredible to go to a place all my life to watch men’s sports and see it packed with fans for women playing at the highest level,” Spain said. “The pageantry, the size of the venue, fireworks. All the elements are exactly where we want women’s sports all the time, so this is just the beginning.”

The next step of growth brought up by fans, players and the coaching staff continues to be about bringing the Red Stars to a stadium in Chicago. The team plays its home games at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

“We want a stadium in the city,” Hocking said. “It is so hard for people to get to Bridgeview. It’s been such a problem over the years.”

Ferguson, who lives in Chicago,  said she would attend games more frequently if games were played in the city.

“Due to it being in Bridgeview, it definitely limited our appetite for attending,” she said. “If the Red Stars were to play in the city limits and had good accessibility, I could see my friends and I attending far more games and some even becoming (season) ticket-holders.”

“We will get the support we need if we have a stadium in the city,” Hocking said. “Like, this is just the beginning. To anyone out there that watched us play today can get us a stadium in the city, people in Chicago will [buy tickets].”

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Bay FC players Kayla Sharples (left), a Naperville native, and Kiki Pickett are all smiles after the 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars at Wrigley Field on June 8. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

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