Photo by Kaleb Searle
Following their thrilling win over Seattle in the WAC championship game Sunday, the Wolverines’ place in the NCAA tournament is set. UVU will travel to Stanford, Calif. to take on the No. 1 overall seed Cardinal Saturday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. MST.
The Wolverines’ 10-11-1 record entering the tournament put UVU in a tough spot from a seeding perspective, ultimately giving the team the toughest draw of the entire field. Stanford ended the season at 18-1-0 as the PAC-12 regular season and tournament champions. The Cardinal’s only loss of the season came in a 3-2 decision on Aug. 25 on the road against No. 8 Florida. Since then, Stanford is on a 16-game winning streak with victories over No. 10 Georgetown, No. 6 UCLA and No. 5 USC. Still, UVU head coach Chris Lemay knows his team won’t back down from the challenge.
“We knew we were going to get a big dog, and at the end of the day, we know if we want to make a run we’re going to have to beat good teams and certainly it’s going to be fun going to Stanford,” Lemay said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their staff. I’ve got a lot of respect for a number of their players that I actually coached that now play at Stanford.”
Lemay is no stranger to the Cardinal. Prior to being hired this spring as the head coach at UVU, he spent four seasons on the coaching staff at California Berkeley, during which time the Bears went 1-2-1 against Stanford and considered the Cardinal to be their biggest rival.
“We’re going to have to outwork Stanford. They’re technically good. They’re athletically good. They’re intelligent,” said Lemay. “With that being said they’re going to have 11 players on the field just like us and every one of their players has two legs just like us.”
The Wolverines have a lot of experience on the road to fall back on from this season. The team spent nonconference play having nine games away from home versus just three games at Clyde Field. That included a trip to College Station to take on No. 11 Texas A&M, where UVU lost 1-0 on a penalty kick by the Aggies. The Wolverines ended nonconference play with a 5-9 record, but the experience should come in handy now, combined with the momentum gained through WAC play.
“[Nonconference] was a little bit rocky at times. We lost more games than I would like,” said sophomore midfielder Breanna DeWaal. “But once conference hit we had some good wins and then in the tournament we really focused and put in the work and got the title.”
“We worked all season to go out with a bang,” said senior defender Libby Weber. “It’s going to be really fun to go play the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and hopefully go make some noise.”