What to watch for as UVU men’s soccer kicks off

Photo by Brooke Morrill

The Utah Valley University men’s soccer team will begin their regular season slate Aug. 26 when they play host to the University of Washington. After an offseason that included a very strong recruiting class, the Wolverines have come into the year ranked at No. 28 in the country in the College Soccer News preseason poll.

While the team, as well as their fans, was hoping for a top-25 preseason ranking, head coach Greg Maas isn’t allowing the fact that it eluded them get to him.

“It’s a better start than we had last year. We weren’t in the rankings and we weren’t receiving votes,” said Maas. “We’re not playing for rankings.”

Something that should help the Wolverines as they enter their third year of Division I play is continuity within the team. UVU returns almost all of their roster from last season, when they secured their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

The quality of the returning players was manifested when three Wolverines, seniors Alex Neff and Skyler Milne and junior Paul Hoffmeister, were named to the preseason All-WAC team. Neff has also previously been a two-time selection for the All-WAC first team.

UVU was predicted to come out second in the conference this season behind defending champ Seattle University, currently ranked No. 18 in the nation.

“We didn’t really lose anybody and we gained a tremendous recruiting class this year so I think we’ve positioned ourselves well to get into the national spotlight,” said Maas. “But our hard work is now in front of us.”

In regards to the new recruits, Maas specifically mentioned freshmen McKay Eves and Alec Felix as two players who could come in and make an immediate impact. Eves has a lot of playing experience coming into UVU, having participated for five years in the U.S. Men’s National U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-18 teams.

“We look to him right now to bring some maturity and leadership in the back as well,” said Maas.

Felix also has his share of experience, having played with the Real Salt Lake Academy U-18 team for two seasons.

“He can play multiple roles for us,” said Maas. “Whether it’s at outside back or holding midfielder or even as a wing forward, so that’s going to be helpful.”

Needless to say, for a program that has gone from the new kid on the block to the national tournament so quickly, the team holds high expectations for this season. Maas says he sees something in this group of players that he hasn’t seen previously.

“We still embrace and embody the ‘as one’ approach and we’ve talked about that each day,” said Maas. “This team is different. This team’s culture and our locker room and personality is about togetherness. It’s something that not only we instill as a staff but really they have embraced and embodied as a team themselves.”

The opening game against Washington, a Pac-12 opponent, should be a good measuring stick for where the Wolverines stand and where they need to go from there. Maas says that as he scouts the Washington team, he sees a lot of his own squad in their play, meaning the game will match strength to strength.

“They are, in all respects, very similar to us. They have tremendous soccer players with some incredible athleticism, and the ability to transition from defending to attacking in a split second,” said Maas. “But I can tell you that’s going to be an incredible match, an exciting match, and I’m just grateful it’s at Clyde Field in front of the 12th Wolverines because they give us that extra pep in our step.”

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