Men’s soccer: UVU’s magical season falls short

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Photo by Julie Ostler

In just its third year of existence, the Utah Valley University men’s soccer team crashed the national rankings and camped there for a total of 14 weeks. However, UVU’s magical season ended with a loss to UNLV in the conference tournament semifinals.

“It was a fantastic year,” said head coach Greg Maas. “The opportunity for us to have been ranked for 14 straight weeks in the top 25 in one or more of the polls since preseason was absolutely remarkable. We had a great nonconference schedule and we had fantastic league play this year and having a chance to win the WAC championship was absolutely remarkable and one of our goals this year.”

On Aug. 26, the No. 24 Wolverines opened the season with a win over No. 20 Washington at Clyde Field. Austin Buxton was out for the season after he was diagnosed with a recurrence of testicular cancer during the week prior to the match. Already short a major piece, Karson Payton was assessed his second yellow card in the 51st minute with the score tied 1-1. Down a man for 39 minutes, UVU not only kept the Huskies off the board, but Paul Hoffmeister punished UW goalkeeper Auden Schilder on a mishandled save for his second goal of the night.

UVU showed the same mettle through the rest of the season.

After they cracked the top 10 in Top Drawer Soccer’s rankings, the Wolverines suffered their first setback on the season in a 2-0 loss to Loyola Chicago, which ended its regular season 13-3-1. The loss sparked another three-game winning streak for UVU, including a 1-0 win over No. 20 Gonzaga at Clyde Field to improve to 2-0 against current top-25 teams.

UVU ended nonconference play by splitting a road trip with a loss to Sacramento State and a win over UC Davis for a nonconference record of 7-2.

With revenge on their minds from the 2015 Western Athletic Conference title game, the Wolverines headed to Seattle to open conference play and take on Seattle University. However, in front of a packed house at Championship Field, UVU fell to the defending WAC champs 2-0. It was the last regular season loss the Wolverines suffered.

UVU blazed through conference play to an 8-1-1 record and shutout five consecutive opponents before San Jose State snapped 544 minutes of shutout soccer. Conference play was punctuated by a 2-2 draw to the Incarnate Word after UVU had already clinched the WAC regular season title.

After entering the WAC tournament with a first-round bye, UVU was upset by UNLV 1-0 in the semifinals at Clyde Field. Despite the resume put together during the season, UVU was denied an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and the Wolverines’ season came to an abrupt end.

Regardless of the disappointing ending, Maas and his players are already looking forward to next season.

“I feel like we have a talented group returning as well as a talented group upcoming in our signing class,” said Maas. “We will also be gaining back four returned missionaries this year that will add to our maturity and depth that we have on the roster.”

Prior to the start of the WAC tournament, Hoffmeister, Mitch Jensen, Skyler Milne and Alex Neff were named to the All-WAC first team, while Aaron Meyer and Payton were named to the conference second team. Maas was named WAC Coach of the Year.

UVU ended the season with a 15-4-1 overall record and fell out of the rankings with the final loss.