Wolverines edge SFA in WAC semi-final 1-0, advance to championship game

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The Utah Valley women’s soccer team kept its season alive for at least one more game, defeating the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 1-0 in the semifinals of the WAC tournament in Abilene, Texas on Friday, Nov. 5.

The semifinal matchup was the first-ever meeting between these two new conference foes, with the Lumberjacks finishing first in the WAC Southwest division, while the Wolverines finished second in the West division.

Katie Haskins scored the winner in the 76th minute off of a pass from Julianna Carter. This was Haskins’ first goal of the season after missing all of the Spring 2021 season due to injury, and her first since the 2019 WAC semifinals against UMKC. 

“She’s still not 100%, but she’s given us valuable minutes and obviously she was the difference-maker today,” said UVU head coach Chris LeMay. “We certainly created a lot of opportunities and in a semifinal, you expect it to be tough. I think the team showed some great resiliency.”

The Wolverines out-shot the Lumberjacks 20-3 on the game and 5-1 on goal. Six of those 20 shots came in the opening eight minutes as UVU pressed high up the pitch. Amber Tripp had a couple shots blocked, but finally got one through on goal that just barely clipped off the top of the crossbar and went out.

Things settled down for the next 15 minutes or so, but Sadie Brockbank turned up the pressure once again in the 30th minute. Brockbank had three quality chances in the span of six minutes, but was unable to convert any of them. The first sailed just over the crossbar, the second went straight at SFA keeper Madeline Talbot, and the third forced a diving save as the ball seemed destined for the back of the net. 

UVU opened the second half on the attack once again, and missed a prime scoring opportunity in the 49th minute. Breanna Dewaal sent a cross that went untouched by either team through the six-yard box and ultimately went out of play. The Wolverines had players in the box, but none were able to get a foot on the ball.

Jenna Shepherd had another close call for the Wolverines in the 52nd minute, but her header sailed just over the crossbar. 

SFA enjoyed it’s only sustained pressure of the match in the ensuing minutes, but were still unable to log a shot on goal.

Momentum shifted back in the Wolverines’ favor, and they ultimately found the breakthrough goal they had so desperately been looking for in the 76th minute. Carter weaved her way into the penalty area from the left corner, leaving the ball for Haskins who chipped it in with the outside of her foot.

UVU did its best to play keep-away in the closing minutes, but almost allowed an equalizer from the Lumberjacks in the 89th minute. Mattie Musser sent a shot on goal from outside the penalty area, forcing Brooklyn Nielsen to use all of her vertical to keep it out. 

The victory for the Wolverines sets up a rematch with a Grand Canyon team that is red-hot coming into the tournament finals. The Lopes defeated another WAC newcomer in Lamar 2-1 to advance to the finals, and are currently riding a three-game winning streak during which they’ve outscored their opponents 12-4. Part of that win streak was a 6-2 dismantling of UVU on the final day of the regular season. 

The Wolverines will look to clinch their second-straight WAC tournament title and second-straight NCAA tournament berth on Sunday. The match will kickoff at noon and can be streamed on ESPN+.