Photo by Jesse Sanchez
OREM, Utah—Something wasn’t quite right for the No. 21 Utah Valley University men’s soccer team in Friday night’s Western Athletic Conference semifinal match. UVU was eliminated from the tournament with a 1-0 loss to UNLV as the Wolverines were handed their first defeat since Sept. 30 at Seattle University.
Normally UVU is a team that is dangerous with set pieces and one that has found success with service into the penalty area from nearly anywhere on the pitch. However, UVU struggled in the semifinal as most balls reached the 18-yard-box completely flat.
“I think that was a little bit indicative of the whole game,” said head coach Greg Maas. “Everything was a little bit off, and soccer is tricky in that respect.”
UVU (15-4-1) won a total of three corner kicks on the night, but each attempt was easily sent back by the UNLV defense with flat service by Aaron Meyer.
The best opportunity of the night came after Paul Hoffmeister was fouled by Tyler Allen near the left side of the 18-yard-box in the 86th minute. Meyer took the free kick from near the goal line, but service was once again flat and UVU was unable to make a solid play on the ball.
“I thought we had a lot of opportunities in the first half that we just did not take advantage of,” said Maas. “Multiple chances that I thought we were going to get a goal, maybe two, maybe three. I’m not sure why we weren’t pulling the trigger or playing it early, ball across the goal mouth, but that comes back to haunt you when you miss easy opportunities early in a match.”
In the 18th minute, Hoffmeister led a charge down the left side of the field. Hoffmeister fed Meyer as he charged down the center lane and hit him in stride near the top of the 18-yard-box, but Meyer hesitated and missed an open window on the goal. After he regathered the ball, Meyer let it fly, but his shot was blocked by Jordan Chavez.
The lone goal of the night came on a quick strike by UNLV to start the second half as Chavez sent a long pass across the middle-third of the pitch to Spencer Jackson, who received the pass with Alex Neff defending close behind him. Jackson spun around Neff and entered the 18-yard-box on a one-two with Danny Musovski, then received the pass in stride and fired on goalkeeper Mitch Jensen. The shot beat Jensen to the left post for a 1-0 UNLV lead in the 47th minute.
The loss is UVU’s first home loss of the season and snaps a nine-match unbeaten streak. The Wolverines will have to wait until the NCAA tournament bracket is released Monday to find out whether their season is over or if they will receive an at-large bid to play on.
I’m a Pacific Northwest guy who loves his Pacific Northwest sports. An amateur movie buff who prefers the disc to digital. Chasing the sports writing dream while I geek out on Assassin’s Creed.