Men’s soccer: #16UVU tops #13Akron 1-0 in season opener

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Photo by Mykah Heaton

For the second time in as many years, the UVU men’s soccer team hosted a powerhouse top-25 program on Clyde Field to start its season. For the second time, the visitor went home with a loss. This year, the No. 16 ranked Wolverines took on the No. 13 ranked Akron Zips and prevailed by a final score of 1-0.

“We got a goal and we dug in deep,” said UVU head coach Greg Maas. “Today’s result was something special here.”

The match’s lone goal came in the 54th minute, when Connor Salmon took UVU’s fourth corner kick of the night and Giovanny Vazquez buried the header for his first career goal playing for the Wolverines. It was a shot at redemption for Vazquez, who had a quality chance just before halftime but sent the shot just high on the finish.

“For Gio (Vazquez) to get that goal, we’ve been waiting for years for that and in his fourth year, his senior year, he finally got it,” said Maas. “It was drawn up perfectly and he banged it home and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Making the Wolverine win even more impressive, preseason All-American Paul Hoffmeister was sidelined with an injury and didn’t play. The match was physical from the start. Two fouls were called and a yellow card was given to UVU’s Nic Harguindeguy in the first three minutes. The officials let the teams play and the first half was much more physical than the final foul total would suggest, with 18 called on the Wolverines and 11 on Akron. UVU did well matching the physical tone set by the Zips.

“I think it showed a lot of character as a team to push past not having our All-American player and just playing as a team,” said Vazquez. “We have all the confidence in the world, as long as we can perform like that and play for each other. We can do very good things.”

The Wolverine defense, led by Vazquez, held the Zips in check for much of the night, only allowing one shot on goal and limiting Akron’s chances on its five corner kicks.

Former Akron transfer goalkeeper Elliot Rubio got the start in the net for UVU and was able to make the save on the Zips’ only shot on goal of the night. Rubio also came out of his box to control the ball on several other key occasions throughout the match.

The record-setting Wolverine crowd also played a role Friday as the Den, UVU’s newly renamed student section, showed out with 1,223 students in attendance. All told, 4,351 fans came to watch the Wolverine victory.

“It was amazing, the best I’ve ever seen,” said Vazquez of the size and atmosphere of the crowd. “Before the game started we were looking over there and we were very impressed.”

Obviously, there’s a lot more soccer to be played with the season just beginning, but this is going to be a massive win for the Wolverines to have in their back pocket come the end of the year.