The power of health in making an NCAA tourney run

Skyler Milne receives attention from the training staff for a shoulder injury during a 3-1 win over Grand Canyon at Clyde Field Oct. 27. Photos courtesy Juan Mena/UVU Athletics

Photo courtesy UVU Athletics

Pulled hamstrings, sprained ankles, concussions and other various injuries are all part of the game of soccer. Just ask the UVU men’s soccer team. Let’s not forget that cancer has played a part in that department as it knocked out Austin Buxton for the year. Buxton was supposed to be a major part of the 2016 squad that had high expectations.

The Wolverines are 13-3 on the season. Yes, this article was written prior to the GCU and UNLV matches so they could possibly be 15-3 as you are reading this. The losses have come to Loyola Chicago, Sacramento State and Seattle. Two of those losses came at a time when the Wolverines were battling injuries, especially to their key players. Paul Hoffmeister, who had a team-leading four goals, suffered a hamstring injury in the loss to Loyola Chicago Sept. 9, 2016. He missed the next two matches against Northern Illinois and Gonzaga, both UVU wins.

Skyler Milne had to battle through a thigh injury prior to the Seattle match Sept. 30, 2016 and wasn’t at 100 percent against the defending WAC champions. Connor Salmon also wasn’t at 100 percent for the Seattle match. Salmon was coming off arthroscopic surgery to repair his meniscus. The Wolverines lost 2-0 to the Redhawks in the conference opener for both teams.

However, since the Seattle loss, the Wolverines have won six straight matches and sit in second place in the WAC standings behind Seattle. Here is the big reason for the streak: UVU is finally healthy.

During the win streak, Hoffmeister and Milne have combined to score six goals. The UVU defense had five shutouts in six matches and ran its conference record to 6-1 and have 18 points.

In two weeks, the Wolverines will host the WAC Tournament at Clyde Field. They will get the chance to face off against Seattle, possibly for another WAC championship. Considering UVU is healthy and playing at a high level right now, there is no doubt that this team can win its first conference title.

There is also a buzz that this team can make a run in the NCAA tourney. With Hoffmeister and Milne fully healthy and Alex Neff roaming the back line, winning a match or two in the NCAA tourney, or advancing further is not out of the realm of possibility. Just look at the overall record when the team is at full strength and fully healthy.

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