Here’s how BIG EAST women’s soccer stadiums stack up

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Women’s soccer plays against Creighton at Valley Fields Sept. 25, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The BIG EAST women’s soccer fields are incredibly diverse. Some of the most unique stadiums are found within the conference and each field presents a different challenge.

Out of the 11 fields, only two still boast a natural grass playing surface, in Marquette’s Valley Fields and Georgetown’s Shaw Field. The other nine teams have updated to some form of artificial turf, usually field turf.

However, the BIG EAST locations have so many more factors that create different atmospheres.

Several players in the conference talked about some of the most difficult and unique factors that separate the fields.

“Favorite place to play outside of home field” 

The BIG EAST lies in the Midwest and East Coast, spanning from Providence College in Rhode Island to Creighton University in Nebraska. Each player shared a little bit about their favorite places to play.

Butler redshirt junior goalkeeper Stephanie Rodriguez said her favorite place to play was out on the East Coast.

“Personally, my favorite would be Providence. I love traveling out east. I think that’s a cool experience for us who are used to the Midwest weather and the type of fields out east is definitely an experience for our team,” Rodgriguez said. “They always have great facilities and fields. It’s top-class and we always enjoy playing there.”

Butler redshirt senior defender Amanda Kowalski talked about Creighton’s field, which has brought in league-topping attendance almost every year for the past decade.

“I would say I enjoy playing at Creighton. It’s just because it’s cool playing in a soccer-only stadium with a nice turf field,” Kowalski said. “It’s a cool atmosphere as well.”

DePaul redshirt senior midfielder Bina Saipi agreed with Kowalski concerning Creighton’s stadium, which can fit up to 7,500 fans.

“I think their stadium is super nice and big. I like traveling there, so the trip out there is fun too,” Saipi said. “I also think Butler is fun, and Georgetown. I would say those three are my favorite.”

Marquette senior forward Kylie Sprecher said besides her home field, St. John’s, Butler and Seton Hall top her list as some of her favorite places to play in the BIG EAST.

“I think St. John’s has a pretty cool field. It’s turf is higher up and they have a lot of stands on the side, so it doesn’t feel like the stands are on top of you,” Sprecher said. “I like Butler and Seton Hall. Butler is in a football stadium-style thing. I don’t like feeling claustrophobic and we have space on the sidelines there. It feels more open, and Seton Hall is the same way.”

“Where is the hardest place to play in the BIG EAST?”

Rodriguez said DePaul was one of the most difficult places to play for several reasons.

“Their field dimensions are definitely different compared to a lot of the BIG EAST,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of it is just a little bit of an adjustment for our team and game plans.”

DePaul’s Wish Field is one of the most unique places to play in potentially all of women’s soccer. There are a number of different factors that make it such a different experience.

“DePaul has the train right next to the field. So, every couple of minutes, the train is flying by which sometimes can be distracting,” Sprecher said. “Also, their field has a compact feeling that I don’t really love and there’s not a lot of space on the sidelines. It’s also used as a softball field so in one corner, there’s a bunch of softball lines which can make it a little tough and confusing and makes the field feel smaller.”

The most unusual part of DePaul’s field is the train that Sprecher mentioned, which constantly passes by the game. The game does not stop and the L train that runs through Chicago causes a commotion that becomes a distraction if one is not prepared.

Saipi said she actually thought Butler’s field had the hardest atmosphere.

“For me, it’s Butler. I think the whole atmosphere of the Butler Bowl and walking out and having their stadium almost dug into the ground,” Saipi said. “It’s always a competitive atmosphere and environment.”

“Best atmosphere in the BIG EAST” 

The fans are such a massive part of any sports competition. With no fans due to the pandemic, the atmosphere is completely different.

Kowalski said Georgetown is able to bring fans out when they compete.

“I would add Georgetown just because of their atmosphere. They always get a good crowd going whenever we play there,” Kowalski said. “I think the atmosphere and field is pretty difficult.”

St. John’s redshirt junior forward Emily Purtell also said Georgetown was one of the most difficult atmospheres to compete in.

“Georgetown is usually a good turnout. There’s a bit of heckling with the crowd there, so I think Georgetown,” Purtell said.

One of the other common picks for best atmosphere was Creighton. Kowalski and Rodriguez said their fans tend to add to the game.

“My past experiences was Creighton. They were able to get a few students last time we were there. It very much feels like a soccer field, facility and stadium,” Rodriguez said. “They always have night games and the lights and the crowd when we’re there. It was fun having some sort of student section rooting against you.”

For Kowalski, the fans at Creighton were doing everything in their power to distract visiting players.

“Sometimes the crowd members will pull up our social media accounts and they’ll heckle us from the sidelines. In the Creighton game, they had a huge fan base when we went there last season and had a bunch of other sports teams there, and heckling,” Kowalski said.

Sprecher said she thinks that Marquette has one of the best atmospheres because of the fans.

“I’m not going to lie and not to be biased, but Valley Fields and the way it’s set up, it’s a very lively environment,” Sprecher said. “I feel like compared to a lot of other schools, the amount of fans and other sports teams that come to our game, the way Valley (Fields) is set up is one of the rowdier places we’ve been.”

This story was written by Bryan Geenen. He can be reached at bryan.geenen@marquette.edu or on Twitter @BryanGeenen