Men’s soccer: #17 UVU shuts out #21 Gonzaga, again

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Photo courtesy UVU Athletics

OREM, Utah—For the third year in a row, the No. 17 Utah Valley University men’s soccer team shut out the No. 21 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Aaron Meyer sent a free kick sailing over a wall of Gonzaga defenders and past the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper for the only score of the match at Clyde Field Thursday.

“Our team takes tremendous pride in clean sheets. I’ve always said if they can’t score, they can’t win,” said UVU head coach Greg Maas.

It didn’t take much time for the Bulldogs (5-1-1) to take the first shot of the game as Jalen Crisler took a shot in the box in the 3rd minute, but it sailed wide of the goal. Gonzaga fired a total of 13 shots on the night, but a stout UVU (5-1-0) defense prevented any from finding the target.

In the 24th minute, a Gonzaga foul near the top of the box on the UVU end set up Aaron Meyer for a free kick. Meyer put a perfect boot on the ball as it glided over a group of airborne Bulldog defenders. The shot continued to hook left as Gonzaga goalkeeper Ben Willis dove to his right, but the ball sailed out of his reach and inside the left post for Meyer’s first goal of the season.

“You’ve just got to take your chances with the free kicks,” said Meyer. “I know set pieces work, we work on them a lot in practice. It’s good to capitalize on one.”

Four minutes later, the Bulldogs charged downfield and got behind the Wolverine defense. With a three-man advantage in the box, Ben White fired from near the penalty spot, but he airmailed his shot high over the goal.

As the match progressed, both teams tested referee Brandon Major’s allowance for physicality. In the 34th minute Karson Payton and Graison Le battled for the ball near the sideline in front of the UVU bench. Le grabbed a handful of Payton’s jersey in an attempt to pull him away from the ball. As Payton was dragged off his position, he caught Le’s fist to his nose. After a brief squabble between the players, Major assessed them both yellow cards.

UVU controlled possession for the latter portion of the first half and threatened to put another goal on the board before the break in the 44th minute. Matt Gay sent a cross from the right side to Donnett Sackie, but Sackie’s bicycle kick missed wide right of the goal.

The Wolverine defense suffocated the Bulldogs in the second half and took away every opportunity to crack the scoreboard. In the 76th minute, Brandon Wright sent a cross from the right sideline towards the middle of the pitch, but Alex Neff knocked it down before the ball could reach a Bulldog attacker. However, the ball fell spinning on the ground in the box. Goalkeeper Elliott Rubio pounced on the idle ball before two charging Bulldogs could make a play on it.

With time growing short in the match, Gonzaga made a final push to equalize, but a shot from distance in the 82nd minute by Jakob Granlund turned into a desperation boot that sailed well off target.

With the win, the Wolverines improved to 2-0 against ranked opponents on the season.

UVU looks to keep Clyde Field unblemished this season by hosting the Cal State Northridge Matadors Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.