Tim Castaneda, Sports Writer, @xTIMBOxSLICEx
Last year the UVU women’s soccer team suffered a heartbreaking loss to University of Missouri-Kansas City in the WAC tournament semifinals to end their first season in the conference with disappointment.
Now, after the team’s second season in the WAC, the lady Wolverines seem confident that with their depth they can further their success heading into this year’s tournament.
In spite of being a young team with only three seniors on this year’s roster, the team’s depth proved to be a strong factor with many different players contributing on any given night throughout the season thus far.
In the 2014 regular season, 13 different players netted a goal for UVU in leading the team to an overall record of 12-6-2 earning them a No. 3 seed heading into the weekend. The team finished with not one, but two leading scorers with junior Kali Stubbs and senior Kim Stratford both netting five goals during the regular season.
“When we started the season I think we had our starting 11 and two or three players that I felt comfortable with coming in off the bench,” said UVU head coach Brent Anderson. “Now when I look at our team, we have multiple players that can start, that can come in off the bench and can have a positive impact for us.”
To go along with such a balanced offensive attack the UVU defense, led by its captain Lexi Robison, showed its dominance with two four-game consecutive shutout streaks. In the process the team set a UVU women’s soccer single season record with nine shutouts on the year.
“We defend as a team and we get those shutouts as a team,” said Robison. “A lot of credit goes to [Jessica] Duffin. She’s really saved us in a couple games.”
Anchored by its junior keeper Jessica Duffin, who finished the season ranked No. 63 in the nation in with a .831 goals against average and No. 8 in the nation in goalie minutes played, the UVU defense hopes to continue its strong play as it seeks to guide its team to a WAC championship.
The team holds gallant expectations to perform at a high level in this year’s WAC tournament after a 2-0 defeat last year in the semifinals left them hungry for a WAC championship heading into this year’s season.
“From the beginning of the season our expectation was to win the WAC tournament,” said Robison. “That’s what we’re hoping for and that’s our goal going into it.”
In order for the lady Wolverines to realize their goal, they need to play at a high level and play their best soccer of the season if they wish to get past defending WAC champion and this year’s favorite, Seattle.
“It’s going to take us playing our best soccer and then, like in any soccer match, we hope to create some luck,” said Coach Anderson. “We also need to just come out prepared to take whatever chances we get and come in with a positive attitude that we can play our best and that we can take down Seattle.”
With an extra year of experience in the WAC under their belt, the lady Wolverines believe that experience factors into the overall confidence of the team in knowing what to expect heading into the conference tournament for the second straight year.
“I think you go in with swag. You go in with confidence like we’ve been here before.” said Stratford. “Only four teams went [to the WAC tournament] last year and we were one of those. We have to build on that confidence for this year in this tournament.”
With depth, experience and confidence to perform at a high level, the UVU women’s soccer team heads to Seattle in hopes of winning the WAC tournament and earning an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
“We’re going up there with expectations to perform at our highest level,” said Coach Anderson. “If we do that I think we can take care of business.”
In its first matchup of the WAC tournament No. 3 seeded UVU faces No. 6 Texas-Pan American Thursday at 8:30 p.m. MT at Championship Field in Seattle.
No. 2 seeded Missouri-Kansas City awaits the winner in the semifinals set for Friday at 8:30 p.m. MT, with the WAC championship match scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. MT.