Kyle McDonald | Sports editor | @kylesportsbias
In a season that saw them earn the schools first top-25 national ranking and come within three minutes of winning their first Western Athletic Conference championship, the Utah Valley University men’s soccer team accomplished another goal in only their second year. They received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division I Soccer Championships.
“Right now, I couldn’t be more proud for these guys,” UVU head coach Greg Maas said. “They’ve worked so hard this year. To garner an NCAA tournament berth in just our second year is truly remarkable. I knew they were capable of achieving this type of success, maybe not this early but credit to them; they put in the work.”
The news is welcomed after dropping a heartbreaker in the WAC Championship to Seattle. With just under three minutes remaining in regulation and leading 1-0, UVU was called for a penalty and Seattle was given a penalty kick. Hamza Haddadi took the kick for Seattle and put it past UVU goalkeeper Collin Partee to tie the match up. After two overtime periods that saw UVU playing with only 10 men and a freshman goalkeeper after Partee drew a red card on a tough challenge, Seattle won 5-4 in penalty kicks to secure the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the performance of our players,” Maas said. “It was truly a championship performance. We put everything we could into that game and honestly we deserved better.”
Well the Wolverines got what they deserved on Monday morning when it was announced that they would be traveling to Dallas to take on the SMU Mustangs in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs are 13-2-4 on the year including a perfect 7-0-1 record in the American Athletic Conference.
“They are a very talented team,” Maas said. “They have a rich soccer history and they haven’t lost in the last ten games so they’ve got momentum and they’ve got a nice field. We understand how they will play and I think it’s going to be a great matchup for us.”
The game will be played in Thursday Nov. 19 at Westcott Field. Time for kickoff is still being determined. The winner of the match will travel to Colorado to take on the Denver University Pioneers in a second-round matchup.
“We have limited time for preparation,” Maas said. “We’ll have limited time to prepare but most of that preparation will be on us. It will be about getting 100% healthy and really playing UVU style of soccer.”
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