It was sweet redemption for Utah Valley’s women’s soccer team last season when they were able to defeat the then defending Great West champions, Houston Baptist in double overtime. This year, the Wolverines look to repeat that same success they had last year and win their third championship in four years.
When UVU opened their season against the University of Texas-El Paso, they went in with a lot of confidence. They were just selected to repeat as champions this year according to the Great West Conference coaches pull. They also had just defeated Westminster 6-3 in their final exhibition game before starting their season just four days prior. But when their senior goalkeeper Lauren Sack went down just 19 minutes into their opening season game, and only three shots after the first half there was a sense of discomfort at UVU’s Clyde Field.
Head coach Brent Anderson didn’t lose faith in his team. If anything, his faith increased in his Wolverines with first year varsity Jessica Duffin having a tremendous performance to close out the game, even though the team still got the loss.
“We’re young and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Anderson said. “We do have some strong leaders in our upper-classmen. Our young players are talented and our work is really to get them to mesh and get on the same page with our upper-classmen but once they do I’m very confident in what they can do.”
Out of their 27 players, 18 of them are either freshmen or sophomores and only nine of them are returning juniors and seniors. But their age won’t be an issue this season according to returning forward, Natalie Baker.
“A lot of our freshmen are really experienced,” Baker said. “They’ve brought a lot to our team. They’re really competitive in practice. They want to play. They give us a run for our money at practice so I’m glad they’re on our team.”
UVU students won’t have many
of chances to cheer for their Wolverines at home as this season. The Wolverines only has 6 home games the entire season, but Anderson understand what that means for his team: more preparation.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of maturing going on during those times,” Anderson said. “We’ll go on the road and we’ll get tested. Sometimes when we’re on the road it’s better for us because we focus up. Sometimes those trips can really help us out.”
The Utah Valley Wolverines only have five games left at home including one against in-state rivals Utah State on Sept. 2. They will also host the Great West Conference Tournament at the end of the season in November. But there is a long road ahead of them, literally, as they will be away from home most of the season. With a line of new faces on the team mingled with some seasoned players though, the Wolverines look to repeat as champions even if that road seems a bit rocky. Their confidence might be able to drive this team through the end.
“Our team is really close,” Baker said. “We’re more of a family. We really put in the work for each other. We want to play well for each and just win with each other. I think we’re going to do great things this year”