Men’s soccer: UVU misses WAC tournament to close disappointing season

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Photo by Cody Glassett

When the WAC men’s soccer tournament kicked off Nov. 8, there was a notable name missing from the bracket. The team that had spent time ranked in the national top 25 and beaten No. 4 Akron on opening night, had failed to make the postseason.

In retrospect, the 2017 season for UVU began on rocky ground. The 2016 version of the team, which won the WAC regular season title, had graduated second leading scorer Skyler Milne and defensive leader Alex Neff. Aaron Meyer, 2016’s third leading scorer, left the team to serve a mission for the LDS church. Over the previous two seasons, Milne and Meyer contributed 75 points to the Wolverine offense. To make matters worse, UVU lost goalkeeper Mitch Jensen, who had recorded five shutouts in 2016, to a torn ACL in the offseason.

Projected to pick up the offensive slack were 2016 leading scorer Paul Hoffmeister, sophomore Gui Leme and junior Donnett Sackie. Injuries limited Hoffmeister to playing in 15 games and starting nine. He still finished as the team’s leading scorer with 10 points, while Leme recorded nine, which speaks to the team’s offensive ineptitude. Sackie, meanwhile, redshirted and didn’t appear in any games for the Wolverines in 2017. The team scored 21 goals, compared to last season’s 33.

The heavy losses following 2016 notwithstanding, this season began with high expectations, as the Wolverines played host to then-No. 14 Akron. Despite Hoffmeister missing the game, UVU pulled out a 1-0 victory over the Zips and was subsequently ranked as the No. 14 team in the country. By season’s end, this would be the high point of the campaign. The Wolverines proceeded to go 2-8-1 over their next 11 games, including starting WAC play with a 0-3-1 record.

“We gave away some points this year. It started with our very first WAC game here against San Jose. … We gave up a late goal which ended up with a draw in the match, and we dropped two points here. That set the tone for the next couple of matches,” head coach Greg Maas said. “We got started off giving points away and we felt like in this conference where there’s quite a bit of parity, you can’t do that.”

Despite the lackluster start to WAC play, UVU made a final push. Starting with a 2-1 win over UMKC Oct. 12, the Wolverines went on a 3-0-1 stretch to put themselves in control over a potential postseason spot. Ultimately, they came up short. An overtime loss to eventual 7-seed GCU in Phoenix and a 2-1 loss to Seattle in the final game of the season sealed UVU’s fate, and the team was left watching the WAC tournament from home.

Following the final game, Maas was quick to remind his team of its accomplishments over the first four years of Division I competition, which include over 44 wins, an NCAA tournament appearance, a WAC championship and several individual and team accolades. Graduating a staggering seven players following this season, a potential rebound season for the Wolverines on the horizon will require a lot of work.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill on this team. We’ve got 10 new players coming in that will sign with us next year,” Maas said. “Right now, the hard work starts for ’18 with the group of guys that we have and I said we’ll start training next week.”