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Minnesota Aurora opens the season in great shape with a 5-0 win over Rochester FC

Fans who arrived as the gates opened for Minnesota Aurora’s season-opening football game on Wednesday received fan scarves, a team poster and a welcome surprise.

Sarah Fuller, a former goaltender turned sponsor relations staffer, handed out posters to fans who turned up at TCO Stadium in Eagan, leaving smiles in her wake. She welcomed hugs, photos and selfies.

A fan walked up to his seat and said to Fuller, “I’m glad you’re here.”

The feeling is mutual. Fuller’s job has shifted from netting shots to selling sponsorships, the latter much easier with Aurora’s performance in its inaugural 2022 season. The team finished 13-1-1 and sold six of nine home games at the 6,000-seat site next to the Minnesota Vikings practice facility.

Fuller’s role in securing success on the court is different this season. A total of 17 players carried over from last season’s pre-pro squad, which plays in the USL W League. But not Fuller, also known for being the first woman to score in a Power Five college football game when she scored an extra run for Vanderbilt.

Minnesota took a four-goal lead in the first half on Wednesday and sent Rochester FC 5-0 in front of a reported crowd of 5,187 fans. Forward Catherine Rapp scored her team’s first and third goals. But Fuller played no part. She made her stadium rounds wearing a team blue jersey instead of her No. 32 game jersey. She was holding a clipboard rather than oversized goalkeeper gloves.

“I met a few of my former teammates before the game and it was a bit bittersweet,” Fuller said. “I kinda miss that. But it’s a different kind of performance I’ve got now. I want to make sure the fans have a good time.”

Rising at 5 a.m. Wednesday and catching a flight from her home in Nashville, Fuller arrived in the Twin Cities with familiar feelings from her playing days.

“I was telling my parents how nervous I was,” Fuller said. “I was like, ‘I want everything to be okay.’ It’s a lesson in humility. I will tell you that I had no idea what was going on in a season, let alone in a game.”

She enjoyed leveraging the Masters in Sports Entertainment Management she earned in December, striving to get more dollars for the Aurora brand.

The Aurora exceeded all of its financial projections last season, with revenue from merchandise, sponsorships and ticket sales up to five times higher than expected. The enthusiasm hasn’t waned in the offseason.

Team president and co-founder Andrea Yoch said earlier this week that the club had sold out all available sponsorships, doubling the numbers from last year.

Fuller focused on sponsorship activations on Wednesday, checking in at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company’s free s’mores stand with the TruStone Financial Federal Credit Union, which donated orange seat cushions to Nautical Bowls.

Line up nautical bowls due to Fuller’s play days.

“I fell in love with Nautical Bowls and thought, ‘Players need this as a snack,'” Fuller said. “So we got them.”

When Fuller comes to call, she said that potential sponsors, “who know Aurora, they know my name, which I think is pretty cool. And I will say that kind of helps sell. Just introduce Aurora as former player, speaking about my experiences, that makes it all the more authentic.

“Sharing all the things I love about this club – it’s so easy to sell,” Fuller said, “I couldn’t imagine if I had to sell Tupperware or something.”

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