With their 4-0 win Saturday night over South Carolina State, Utah Valley University’s women’s soccer team won’t have to dress up as Great West conference champs come Halloween Monday night. S.C. State came into the night up one game on the Wolverines with a perfect 5-0 conference record and a head start in the race to gain the top seed for tournament play next weekend, but it would be the Wolverines that would take the reigns and assert control as the frigid night wore on.
Action started out slow in the first half with the only real threat being nullified on a blown call by the refs as Regan Clifford somehow managed to dribble the ball past a couple defenders and end up offside on a “pass” to herself. According to that precedent, had the goal counted that Clifford tapped in, she may have been the first player to have ever assisted her own goal.
Scoring picked up in the second half as the Wolverines found a way to create more opportunities and capitalize on quick decision making.
“We were able to communicate very well tonight,” said UVU head coach Brent Anderson. “That allowed us to make fast decisions with the ball and get good spacing.”
The first goal of the night came off the foot of Lexi Dunn on a direct kick in the 54th minute from 30 yards out. What appeared to be a powerful pass to awaiting teammates right in front of the goal ended up as a shot that sailed just over the out-stretched finger tips of S.C. States keeper and snuck under the top crossbar to give UVU the 1-0 lead.
Natalie Young continued her hot streak and added to her league-leading totals as she scored in the 73rd minute on a sliding kick against a charging keeper. Her fight for the loose ball resulted in a slow roller that trickled into a defenseless open net, extending the Wolverine lead to 2-0.
Just to leave no doubt, the Wolverines added another goal in the 78th minute, scoring again on a direct kick by Kaitlyn Thomas coming from 22 yards out and pushing the lead out of reach at 3-0.
The final goal of the night can’t be thought of as insurance, due to the fact that it came with 1.5 seconds remaining and made the score 4-0, but for senior Jamie Lyons that didn’t matter.
“It was great to get a goal on senior night,” Lyons said. “We had a good week of practice and were pretty loose for tonight. It feels good to win the conference but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. If we play like we know we can I don’t have any doubts that we will win the tournament.”
The Wolverines looked sharp on the heels of their less than stellar road trip to New Jersey last week. The experience in the Garden State may prove to be advantageous come tournament time, which will be played on the field of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“The reason we booked that extended road trip was for experience,” Anderson said. “Getting the girls used to the surroundings and the time zone difference so close to tournament time will really help out with our comfort level.”
Utah Valley will enter the tournament as the number one seed and will attempt to win their second conference tournament in three years. Their next match will be Saturday November 5th.
By Jonathan Boldt – Assistant Sports Editor