NYU’s Kim Wyant (right) and UChicago’s Julianne Sitch share a huge before the game. (Photo courtesy of NYU)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

BRONX, N.Y. – If anyone watching this match didn’t know any better, they might have thought it was just another men’s college soccer game at Gaelic Park on a cool October Friday afternoon.

About 20 minutes prior to the opening kickoff, the coaches talked to each other at midfield.

The Starting XIs were announced. First the University of Chicago, ending with its coach, Julianne Sitch.

A similar scenario transpired with New York University, as its coach, Kim Wyant, was last name mentioned.

But this wasn’t just another college soccer game as there were women on the sidelines on each team running the show for what was believed to have been the first time in NCAA history.

There was no pomp and ceremony, no big announcements, no big excitement.

Well, not until the end of the game.

The final horn sounded and NYU celebrated a scoreless tie, but a special one as the Violets, playing the final 60 minutes with 10 men due to a red card, snapped Chicago’s winning streak at 14 games as it picked up a vital point against the topo-ranked Division III team in the nation.

The Violets moved to 7-4-3 and 2-1-1 while Chicago’s first blemish put the visitors at 14-0-1, 4-0-1.

Goalkeeper Luca Manusco was superb, making five saves in the entertaining and physical confrontation as he survived a shot off the right post in the waning seconds

How physical was it? Referee Pat Violette handed out nine yellow cards and one red.

Wyant has been guiding NYU since the 2015 season, while Sitch took command of Chicago last May.

Asked if she felt that the tie felt more like a victory given what the obstacles the Violets were forced to overcome, Wyant replied, “Absolutely.”

Wyant felt Bennett should not have been given his marching orders by referee Pat Violette.

“To have a player sent off, a very harsh call because he was going for the ball,” she added. “It wasn’t like he was trying to stud the kid on purpose.

“To have a kid sent off and to have your team just like weather that storm for 20 minutes to get us to halftime. My first thought was: ‘Okay, let’s just let’s get to halftime. Then we can talk a little bit more and organized a little bit more.’ ”

Sitch said she was disappointed not getting a win.

“We had a lot of good moments and had our chances to score and unfortunately didn’t happen for us on that end,” she said. “But overall like just proud of the group to you know, leave it all out there on the field and stuff but disappointing to walk away without three points.”

Still, it was a memorable night for other reasons.

“In general, it’s amazing for the sport,” Sitch said. “It’s amazing for the sport across the world. It’s a huge step for women. It’s just very cool, feel honored to be a part of it tonight.”

Wyant agreed.

“I think it’s enormously important that this happens. I think we can write some more history,” she said. “I think we can open up some more doors for other women. I think we can make administrators who are in these decisions to hire people, we can help them to stop and think.”

NYU acquitted itself rather well, holding off the juggernaut from the Windy City while getting a couple of chances, even if its attempts were wayward.

The game was a relatively even battle for the opening half hour before Nathan Bennett was red carded for fouling Chicago goalkeeper Will Boyes at 29:58, forcing Wyant to alter her game plan as the Violets played the rest of the Division III match with 10 players.

“My first thought was: ‘Okay, let’s just let’s get to halftime. Then we can talk a little bit more and organized a little bit more,’ ” Wyant said.

Before talking to her team in the locker room, Wyant was seen mapping out some strategy with her assistant coaches on the bench.

The hosts came out on the front foot in the second half as the game opened up.

Arkan Tahsildaroglu picked up a loose ball at midfield and fired NYU’s first shot on target, which was saved by keeper Will Boyes 36 seconds in.

Tahsildaroglu had another attempt from the right side that Boyes snared at 51:21.

Then it was Chicago’s turn to make the Violets and Mancuso sweat. Mancuso, however, caught Kameron Blye’s attempt at 54:07 and Tanner Baldwin’s shot at 56:43.

“Their defense made a couple good plays,” Sitch said. “We weren’t as sharp as we normally are in the attacking third. I think that kind of hurt us a little bit tonight as well.”

Then it was NYU’s turn to make things interested as Joe Leslie, from the right flank, skidded his shot just past the far left post.

Tahsildaroglu, latching onto a pass from Andreas Soerensen off the counterattack, fired a shot wide right at 75:09.

Tahsildaroglu, off a brilliant individual run through the defense, drilled a shot off the left post at 80:10.

With only 29 seconds remaining, Chicago rammed a shot off the crossbar.

Gaelic Park as you might imagine wasn’t necessarily built just for the beautiful game. Behind each of the goals were goalposts for Gaelic football. The venue is the home of Manhattan College as NYU utilizes it because of thte paucity of available soccer stadiums in the five boroughs.

Every few minutes the crowd could hear the rumblings of the elevated A train pass by after dropping off and taking on passengers.

Most likely coming home from work, they probably were oblivious to the fact history – short term and long term -was in the making below – in more ways than one.