No. 1 UVU and No. 4 Grand Canyon met in the semifinal of the WAC Tournament.
The two teams met earlier this season in Arizona with UVU coming away with a 4-0 victory.
Utah Valley showed some aggressiveness early, with senior Jenna Shepherd-Gremillion receiving a free kick, nearly heading the ball in to give the Wolverines an early lead. Despite the attempt going long, Utah Valley was able to get a shot up.
But that was really it from the Wolverines early.
Not only did UVU slowdown in offensive prowess, but their defense also suffered immensely. Grand Canyon was given opportunity after opportunity to take an early lead but could not get anything going.
Between CJ Graham dribbling alone with the ball in the box, or missing an assignment in the box, it felt like Grand Canyon was bound to get a goal soon.
After relentless attacks in the defensive third, Utah Valley let one slip and Grand Canyon would take a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.
Graham initially blocked the attempt, but it was deflected off the defending Sydney Bushman’s leg. The ball dribbled into the unattended net, resulting in an own goal, despite it being Gianna Gourley’s shot.
Gourley ranks third in the country in goals scored with 20.
This was the first time Utah Valley had trailed since their match against BYU on Sept. 2, nearly two months ago.
Gourley had a chance at another goal after she was deemed offside by the official, saving Utah Valley from a 2-0 deficit.
Even after the offside call, Grand Canyon continued to put the pressure on the Wolverines, putting up shot after shot.
Up to this point in the match, Grand Canyon had six shots with two on target, while Utah Valley had made just three attempts.
Utah Valley had their first on-goal attempt in the 35th minute when Ruby Hladek fired a shot immediately after receiving it in the box, but was blocked by the keeper.
Thus, that was the end of the first half and No. 1 Utah Valley would trail 1-0.
Utah Valley came out with heat in the second half, with Hladek setting a pick for Heather Stainbrook to receive a ball and a one-on-one chance with the keeper.
Stainbrook’s shot was just high but gave Utah Valley confidence going forward.
This was just what they needed.
Nicole Olanda sent a corner kick that was fielded by Shepherd-Gremillion, who then found Hladek. Hladek sent the header into the net, tying the game 1-1.
Things got interesting late in the game when GCU had a corner kick that was beautifully placed for a Lopes header. However, CJ Graham made the play of the game, diving and potentially saving the Wolverines’ season.
Minutes later, Faith Webber had a chance to end the game after Olanda sent a ball into the box, but it was just wide.
But disaster struck for the Wolverines.
As it haunted them all night, the transition defense could not get back in time and Grand Canyon took the lead in the 87th minute.
Utah Valley could not score in the final three minutes, and Grand Canyon upset No. 1 UVU 2-1.
UVU had appeared in four straight WAC Tournament championships, winning one in 2020.
It is heartbreaking for Utah Valley, as their first conference loss comes during the tournament — marking their first defeat since Sept. 2.
The Wolverines will now have to wait until Sunday to see if they receive an at-large bid, as they did last season, to the NCAA Tournament.
Nathan Dunn is the Sports Editor for the UVU Review. After three years at Utah State, Nathan is majoring in Public Relations and Digital Media at Utah Valley University. In his free time, Nathan likes to watch all sports but mostly College Football. Nathan works hard to give the best sports content to UVU fans, media, and students.