By Jessica Whalen
Men’s Division I soccer has finally come to Utah, and the program is being built one step at a time.
“Our ’14 class, which is our first class of athletes coming in, is a huge class,” said Gred Maas, head coach, at the Wolverine Club luncheon. “We have essentially 30-32 athletes. Out of that group we have nine different states represented. We have three different countries – Mexico, Canada and France – from where student-athletes are coming in.”
Maas along with associate head coach Matt Elliinger hosted over 100 potential players in August at Clyde Field, ranging from high school freshmen to juniors in college. This was a two-day try-out to get NCAA qualified players who had the potential and skills to play at a collegiate level.
“The UVU men’s soccer team is in pursuit to identify, recruit and matriculate top-level student-athletes to represent UVU and our athletic department at the NCAA division I level,” said Maas.
Though the season doesn’t begin until 2014, the team is practicing and preparing for its inaugural season. Preparation includes, but is not limited to: recruiting, scheduling, assisting with marketing, sponsorship, and of course, training the nine current student-athletes that are enrolled full-time this fall at UVU. The men’s soccer team is able to grant the qualifying student-athletes with both academic and/or athletics financial assistance.
“It begins with identifying and recruiting the right student-athletes who will represent UVU and our athletics department with ‘Wolverine Way’ both on and off of the field,” said Maas. “The hard work begins both on the field and in the classroom.”
After arriving on campus, one of Maas’ first orders of business was to tab Ellinger his associate head coach. Ellinger, son of the first-ever head coach in Real Salt Lake’s history, John Ellinger, knew Maas from his time coaching the Real U-17 team.
“We’re leading the charge together here,” Maas said. “It’s an honor and a privelege to be part of the Wolverine family. I’m excited to be here, I know Matt is excited to be here. It’s something very special. I appreciate the warm welcome from everyone involved.”
The first team practice was held Wednesday Sept. 4. The Wolverines will be part of the Western Athletic Conference, and are training for two hours each day, only resting on Sunday, to get a jump-start on the season.
“Today was certainly a special moment for UVU athletics,” said Maas after the first day of practice. “Honestly, it was an emotional moment for myself and coach Ellinger to finally get out on the field and start working. We were both very impressed with the energy level and the overall level of play the guys brought to the first day. It was a tremendous start to our program and I could not have asked for more.”
The Wolverines will play games starting in the spring with other colleges and universities to be better prepared for the Division I season next fall. The Wolverines however will not be playing any clubs at other schools, only college and university soccer teams.