20 returning letterwinners has program excited
Kyle McDonald | Sports Editor | @kylesportsbias
Head Coach Greg Maas returns 20 letterwinners and nine starters from a team that went 9-7-2 in their first season including a 5-1-2 record at Clyde Field in Orem. Cameron Kidwell was the lone departure from the 2014 squad as he graduated. The Wolverines return All-WAC defender Alex Neff and NSCAA West All-Region performer Karson Payton. Payton is a sophomore who scored five goals and had team-high 15 assists in 2014.
“I think everyone is more animated,” Payton said. “We know that the first year is in our past and we have a brighter future.”
With the return of 20 letterwinners, it makes life a little bit easier for Maas heading into fall camp.
“We’re excited about year two,” Maas said. “One year ago we were introducing ourselves to one another and it took a long time to get that continuity and that comfort level with one another. It’s been a completely different preseason for us this year…we’re miles ahead of where we were last year at this time and it allows us to pick up where we left off.”
One thing that Maas hopes for in 2015 is that his team is able to play better on the road. They were 4-6 away from Clyde Field and Maas believes he team gained valuable experience playing in difficult circumstances on the road.
“I don’t care what level it is; it is going to be difficult,” Maas said. “It’s a different environment, different surface, and different city that presents different challenges for the team. Other teams made games difficult for us but had we executed our chances, we wouldn’t have put ourselves in that position.”
With a crowd attendance that ranked 14 in the nation in 2014, the Wolverines will look to lean on those big crowds to help them stay competitive in a tough Western Athletic Conference.
“We feel very fortunate to have such a great home environment,” Maas said. “For us to have 3,000 fans at a home match really gives us a competitive edge.”
It also helps to have All-WAC defender Alex Neff back as well as goalkeeper Colin Partee between the posts. Partee led the WAC and was ranked 30 nationally with a 0.81 goals against average. Neff and Partee also led a defense that ranked first in the WAC in both goals against average with 0.75 and save percentage at .848. Partee, who played with the U23 Portland Timbers team over the summer, is excited for year two at UVU.
“Last year we did have high expectations,” Partee said. “Even as a first-year program, I don’t think any of us went into any game thinking we were the underdog. This year it goes again that we actually have history to back it up. That you know what? We can be competitive and can play with the top teams in the country.”
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