Five takeaways from the 2017 men’s soccer schedule

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Photo by Julie Ostler

The UVU men’s soccer team announced its 2017 schedule April 14. It features eight nonconference matches before the beginning of WAC play. Here are five takeaways from the rundown:

To be the best, you have to beat the best

It’s clear from this schedule that UVU wants to avoid another snub from the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines failed to claim an at-large bid to the tournament following the 2016 season despite earning the title of regular-season WAC champions. Critics pointed to a weak schedule as a possible reason UVU was left out. This season, the team will face five tournament teams from last year including UNLV, which earned the WAC’s automatic bid after upsetting UVU in the conference tournament and going on to take the championship. Within the first month of the season, UVU will face Cal State Northridge, Akron, San Diego State and Washington. If the Wolverines can grab some wins in those nonconference matches it will help tremendously with their odds for a national tournament appearance.

No better tune-up

Not only will the team face five 2016 tournament teams in the regular season, it will also head to California for an exhibition with UCLA before the season kicks off. In the way of an opponent to help UVU tune up for the season, it doesn’t get much better than the Bruins. They started last season ranked No. 6 in Top Drawer Soccer’s national rankings, spent most of the season in the top 25 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The exhibition should give the Wolverines a good reminder of what it will take to have success throughout the season.

Home opener

Last season, UVU opened its home schedule against No. 20 Washington. Hosting a nationally-ranked team from a power conference was a big billing for the program, which made the victory even bigger. In the 2017 season, the stakes have been raised again for the team’s home opener as UVU will be hosting the University of Akron. The Zips have been a mainstay in the postseason for over a decade, last missing the tournament in 2006. They were the 2009 NCAA runner-ups and won a national title in 2010, making this the highest-profile team the Wolverines have hosted in their short Division I history.

Balance at last

For the first time since it began DI competition, UVU will have an equal amount of nonconference games at home and on the road with four each. The games are also scheduled in a balanced way with two games at home, followed by two away, et cetera. This will give the team an added sense of routine and help with travel and training schedules.

Tough closing stretch

UVU will close the season with road games at UNLV and Grand Canyon before wrapping up with a home match against Seattle — what should be three of the toughest WAC opponents of the season. UNLV is the defending tournament champions, GCU will be eligible for postseason play for the first time and UVU has yet to beat SU in program history. A good showing in these three games will likely be crucial for the Wolverines’ conference tournament seeding and momentum heading into the postseason.