This story was corrected at 7:45 p.m. on May 23, 2021, to identify Ella Stevens as Kay Baker's niece. An earlier version listed Stevens as her daughter.
Kay Baker and Brian MacLean, admitted "soccer snobs," have been with the Chattanooga Red Wolves since the beginning.
They're hard to miss, as the pair can be seen in Section 114, Row 8 of CHI Memorial Stadium — where they have season tickets — shaking cowbells with the Red Wolves' logo on them. Also impossible to miss on Saturday night was Debbi Hix, who after each goal by the home team — including one by Jason Ramos in the fourth minute of stoppage time that proved to be the winner — let off a popper that produced a red haze that was still present long after the final buzzer sounded.
Sure, this USL League One match in East Ridge was about the Red Wolves, who beat Fort Lauderdale CF 2-1 to improve to 2-0-1 this season.
But it was more about the crowd of 2,072 at CHI Memorial, the first time anyone and everyone was allowed at a stadium that debuted last season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is still under construction. It was about the swarm of kids who hung around well after the match in hopes of gaining an autograph. It was about the first-time fans in attendance simply because they needed to do something on a Saturday night.
"I was so happy to hear that they lifted the restrictions, full capacity," MacLean said. "And the people got what they paid for, which is awesome."
If there were fans on the fence, though, the Red Wolves gave them something to come back for with their takedown of Fort Lauderdale (3-4). Jimmy Obleda's second season as Chattanooga's coach — and the third season for the team — started with impressive performances on the road the past two weekends, and now the Red Wolves have showcased their potential at home.
"Jimmy came in last year, and his style is much faster and more aggressive. They're going to get the ball down the field and fast. We like that," said Baker, whose niece Ella Stevens played college soccer at Duke and now plays professionally for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League. "It's going to bring people in, and obviously winning games brings people in, too, but the guys' style of playing helps."
CHI Memorial is still a work in progress, much like the Red Wolves after Obleda and general manager Sean McDaniel revamped the roster after the 2020 season. Last year's team looked nothing like this year's, but this year's team has a hunger that last season's probably didn't have, as for the second straight match, the team rallied in the second half to improve on the result it looked like it was about to obtain.
Against the New England Revolution II last Sunday, it was a pair of second-half goals by Josue Espana that helped the Red Wolves gain a point with a draw on the road. Saturday night, it was Ramos' goal off a Ricky Ruiz free kick that turned a draw into a win.
And maybe a few fans into season ticket holders.
"This is the first year we get to fill up the stands with all of our fans, and the atmosphere was great," Ramos said. "I'm just happy all of these great fans and great families all came out tonight; they're one extra player in a way. They help us throughout the 90 minutes, and they kept us going, honestly.
"It was a great atmosphere, and I'm just happy to get three points out there."