Photo by Jesse Sanchez
UVU men’s soccer head coach Greg Maas has high expectations for Gui Leme heading into his second year with the program. The Wolverines will need all the help they can get as they get set to face their toughest schedule in school history and open the season with unprecedented expectations and a No. 16 national ranking. Maas said Leme has an “attacking fortitude that is, honestly, unmatched.” If he has the year he is capable of, Maas expects Leme to be a contender to earn All-WAC honors for offensive players in a breakout season.
A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Leme played with his friends and neighbors whenever he got the chance from the time he was a small child. When he was 8 years old, though, he began playing futsal, a variation of soccer that is played indoors on a hard court with smaller dimensions. He attributes his ball-handling skills and style of play to the years he competed in the indoor futsal league in Brazil. The smaller field of play forced players to keep the ball close to them and develop sharper dribbling skills.
When Leme was 10 years old, his father, Celso Leme, received a coaching opportunity in the Unites States and a year later he and his mother joined him, leaving behind Brazil and starting a new life in a new country. He said several years passed before he fully adjusted to the altitude of Utah and, he had little desire to pursue soccer seriously.
Excelling at the game of soccer was not a priority for Leme until his junior year of high school. Previously, he had not played varsity soccer for his school. In fact, he didn’t play high school soccer at all his sophomore year at Pleasant Grove. It wasn’t until his family moved to Lehi that his prep career was able to take off. He found a place on Lehi High School’s team and helped them win the state championship as Utah’s 5A MVP in 2013 and a passion to play the game at a higher level soon followed.
“That’s when I started loving soccer even more,” Leme said. “It was just amazing.”
Despite two standout years as a Lehi Pioneer, Leme didn’t envision a collegiate career being in the cards. He credits Maas for helping him clear the necessary path to become a Division I student athlete. Leme said he was mowing lawns while working with a friend when he received the call from Maas saying he wanted him to go play for UVU.
“I wasn’t going to play soccer [at the collegiate level] because I never had the grades for college, but Greg gave me the chance,” Leme said. “So, I guess Greg gave me the ultimate chance I needed.”
After the loss of Skyler Milne to graduation and Aaron Meyer to an LDS mission from last year’s squad, Maas seeks to fill some of their production (35 points in 2016) through Leme. Though he scored just eight points and three goals last season, two of those goals were game-winners in important conference matches against Cal State Bakersfield and Grand Canyon. He also enters the season healthier as he dealt with a broken wrist that may have hampered production as a freshman last year.
“He’s a coach that likes to test you,” Leme said. “He likes to get in your head and see how you react.”
Maas and UVU soccer fans alike are hoping Leme reacts on the field the way his coach believes he’s capable and helps the Wolverines win the WAC title in 2017.
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.