The last line of defense

Photo by Jesse Sanchez

The influx of talent preceding the 2016 season has played a large part in the early success of the Utah Valley University men’s soccer team. Among the incoming players is a transfer from the University of Akron, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Elliott Rubio.

Rubio came from a college soccer powerhouse in Akron. He was a backup for the Zips team that made the semifinals in 2015’s College Cup before being taken down in penalty kicks by eventual champion Stanford. Common knowledge would say that moving from a national semifinalist to a smaller school like UVU would be a questionable move, but Rubio doesn’t see it that way.

“Everyone thinks that where I came from is this huge frickin’ phenom and I’m coming to a smaller kind of school, so to speak, but I feel no different,” said Rubio. “I feel just as at home here as I was at Akron; even more so.”

Through the preparation for the season, Rubio earned the starting job between the pipes for the Wolverines. His performance against the University of Washington, a top-25 team, in the season opener ensured he wasn’t going anywhere. With the Wolverines down a man and clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Huskies launched an onslaught on goal that Rubio called “absolute insanity.” He stood tall and made a pair of incredibly athletic saves to preserve the win.

His five saves in that game are a season-high thus far. The Wolverine defense sees to it that Rubio doesn’t have to face that situation often.

A good back line is a goalkeeper’s best friend, and Rubio certainly has that. When asked about the quality of his play this season, he pointed to the play of the defense in front of him. He wants to make sure that they receive credit for their contribution to his play.

“Mainly the reason I think that I’ve been performing so well is just I feed off the energy of the guys on the field,” said Rubio.

Rubio has been in goal for three shutouts through UVU’s first seven matches. He combined with Mitch Jensen for a fourth against the University of Northern Illinois in the only game Rubio hasn’t played from start to finish.

Having shown they belong in the ranks of the top teams in the nation, the Wolverines believe they can go far this season. Rubio, too, is increasingly optimistic that his team can run with anyone, and the team has to feel good about his body of work as their last line of defense.

“We just need to be organized and play our game, to be honest. The only slip-ups we’ve had this season have only been at our own faults,” said Rubio. “I feel really confident in this team and we all know that if we put our cleats in the dirt and get the job done that we can have a good competition with anybody.”

To hear more of the interview with Elliott Rubio, check out the Sept. 15 episode of the Wolverine Sports World Podcast 

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