Last season the Utah Valley men’s soccer team had their 2020 season pushed back to the start of 2021, as well as many of their games being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the season is set to start as usual in late August. The Wolverines look to improve behind returning players, a new coaching staff and more certainty in terms of a practice and game schedule.
Last season the Wolverines finished with a 3-4 record and a 2-4 record in their conference as the team finished ninth in the WAC.
The team will be returning a large part of its roster from the 2021 spring season, including senior goalkeeper Joseph Wheelwright and redshirt junior midfielder Jojea Kwizera, who made Second Team All-WAC last season. The team will also have All-WAC honorable mentions in freshman midfielder Alejandro Silva and junior forward Zahir Vazquez.
The Wolverines will also be bringing in eight new freshmen and one new transfer player.
In the coaches poll the Wolverines were picked to finish eight with Grand Canyon picked to finish first in the WAC.
New Coaching Staff
This season the Wolverines will have Kyle Beckerman as their new head coach. Beckerman is a former Major League Soccer player who played 21 seasons in the MLS. Beckerman played for Real Salt Lake from 2007-2020. New assistant coaches Alex Yi and Seth Trembly will also be on the Wolverine coaching staff.
The players have expressed excitement about the professional experience that the new coaching staff brings as well as a new chance to prove themselves.
“Kyle has everyone nervous but a good nervous because you don’t know what to expect,” said redshirt senior Mark Brown. “Everyone’s there to give their all every single day and it’s been cool having Kyle as well as Alex and Seth because all of them have played at the professional level. For a lot of guys it carries a lot of weight when they coach. They’ve been to the places where a lot of the guys want to be and it’s cool to have that perspective from them as a coach.”
This year the team not only wants to improve but they also have lofty aspirations that they believe they can accomplish.
“Every year we have three trophies to play for and that’s the WAC season, WAC tournament, and the NCAA tournament so going into every year from here on out that is what our goals are,” said Beckerman.
Those are big goals for the team but the Wolverines have been setting a foundation that they can build on to help accomplish those goals and hopefully set up success for now and years to come.
“The big thing is coming every day and trying to improve. Come every day and practice to be a good teammate. Whether that’s a game, whether that’s practice we want guys to be team players first,” said Beckerman. “The improvement overall has been great to see. That’s one of the things we came here trying to do is improve a couple of percentage points and improve each player individually a little bit then we’re going to be a better team.”
Last season was unknown with COVID-19 as the Wolverines did not know if they would even have a season. Once the season started late in the spring the team was also uncertain about when and if they would have their games and if they would be allowed to practice. Many of the team’s games did end up being canceled as they played only seven total games. This year the team is expected to play 17 games and have a regular practice schedule which comes as a sigh of relief to the players.
“[This season] has definitely felt a little bit different … we’re able to do things almost … what we know as the normal way of doing things,” said junior defender Cam Weston. “The preseason has been really smooth. The sessions have been able to go longer. We can just focus a lot more on soccer.”
“Nothing was worse than you training all week and then having our game canceled on Friday,” added Brown. “Having the regularity and being able to train and play every single week is something we’re not taking for granted. We are working really hard right now to make sure every rep counts.”
The Wolverines are eager to have the fans back in the stands as last year they experienced little to no fan attendance.
“I know through my first couple years at Clyde field having thousands of people cheering is awesome and not having that last year really made me realize how much of a difference it makes for both the opponents and us,” said Brown. “For us to have that backing for the home opener against CSUN having a couple thousand people at the game is going to be really special.”
The Wolverines opening game of the season will be on the road against Canisius on Thursday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. MT. The game will be aired on ESPN 3.