No one gave the women’s soccer team a chance after losing nine seniors from their 2010-11 squad.
Tell that to Houston Baptist.
No one gave the men’s basketball team a break, not after returning four starters and an All-America Honorable Mention from last year’s 19-11 team.
Tell that to head coach Dick Hunsaker.
Experience, it turns out, isn’t the elixir so many old-school experts claim it is. Utah Valley sports in 2011-12 have leaned as much (and sometimes more) on the youth of their rosters to gut out key wins.
Senior guard Isiah Williams came up big last week with 11 second-half points, but without sophomore guard Holton Hunsaker’s 16 first-half points, Williams’ production wouldn’t have mattered.
Ironically, the women’s soccer team’s most productive player Natalie Young. The redshirt sophomore topped the team in goals (12) and assists (6) and the Wolverines won the Great West Conference regular season and tournament championships.
The volleyball team got its points from seniors Jaicee Kuresa, Chelsey Heaps and Sarah Clement, but those points were set up by conference Setter of the Year and sophomore Brookelyn Campbell.
And while experience isn’t everything, youth has shown its own drawbacks. Hunsaker’s growing pains are magnified at the point guard position, where he is held accountable for team’s offense as well as his own. Ditto for Campbell, who was forced to forge on-court chemistry with Clement and Co. during a brutal non-conference schedule.
Perhaps no other team has dealt with both extremes more than the wrestling team. Carried by three senior national qualifiers last year, the 2011-12 edition has 28 freshmen – and zero seniors. That didn’t stop the team from downing Boise State earlier this month, thanks to the accelerated growth of junior Josh Wilson and sophomore Avery Garner.
Many of the freshmen are redshirting this season, as head coach Greg Williams hopes what little experience the team does have will be enough to compete and, ultimately, contend. The Wolverines’ overwhelming youth, however, has been just as key to lessening the impact of what Williams admitted is a rebuilding phase.
In the end, it will probably be Williams the final shot, Wilson getting the big decision win. It is also just as likely that Hunsaker and Garner will be the reasons the seniors’ production will matter at all in the first place.
By Matt Petersen