It wasn’t a national championship, but a trophy was on the line.
And the women’s soccer team didn’t mute its excitement at taking the United Soccer Conference championship.
The title, which to outsiders probably means little, means everything to a team that doesn’t have any other venue to play.
And guess what? The Wolverines will only get better in doing more than just defend a title.
With a roster that had no seniors and included 12 freshman, it’s amazing that Utah Valley did as well as it did.
Not counting blowout losses to a couple of NCAA tournament regulars, the team was in virtually every other match.
Unfortunately, several games were lost due to goals scored by the opposing team in the last 10 minutes.
"Coming from a high school or club soccer background, they didn’t know how much work they needed to put in," said coach Brent Anderson.
While the team struggled for most of the year, it was the simple things that caused them the most problems. The forwards played well as a unit. And so did the midfielders and the defense.
Communication between the units, especially during transition play, was the biggest breakdown during matches. Learning to trust your teammates in defense and knowing their range was a constant issue during the year.
"They were trying to find out who was going to be a leader," Anderson said.
Luckily, the Wolverines came together at the end.
"One of the biggest things we developed is a stronger mentality," Anderson said.
If the players can anticipate each other’s play better, which can only be solved by practice, the whole team has the goods to deliver.
Another year of experience will add much to the squad.
Don’t look for a dramatic turnaround though. A more realistic expectation is closer losses to teams like Utah or UNLV. Even a 4-1 loss would look better than losing 5-0.
Plus winning two or three of against teams they lost by a goal this season would bump the record to a 5-13-1 record to potentially a game or two under .500.
Why couldn’t the record improve? The real question is why shouldn’t the team get better.
Jenni Clough scored eight goals this season to break Utah Valley’s all-time mark and will just add to the total during her senior year. Sophomore Adrienne Schneider stepped up late in the season to feed Clough’s appetite for goals.
Look out for this year’s freshman as well.
Hobbling on one good leg, Katey Turner showed she has the goods, scoring 24 seconds into the second half during the USC championship match, even if she is at 75 percent.
If Andi Bagdan channels her emotions, she could be the breakout star on the team. Bagdan’s temper got the best of her a couple of times on the field, but when she used it as motivation, she dominated in one-on-one play.
Next year will be tough, there is no doubting that. But look out for a team that will be brilliant at times.
"This team has a lot of dangerous players," Anderson said.