Senior midfielder, Hannah Lee, put the ball in the back of the net to push the Wolverines up 3-2 heading into the half. In its six previous matches against the Cougars, the Wolverines had only scored two goals combined; by half time, they had three.
Another goal in the 79th minute sealed Utah Valley’s first victory over the nationally ranked No. 13 Cougars and secured its highest ranked win in program history.
Those kinds of wins have not been out of the ordinary for the program in recent years. Achieving a combined 51-16 record in its last four seasons, Utah Valley has started on a new path of success which has included a 2020 Western Athletic Conference Championship two NCAA tournament visits and four consecutive WAC Championship appearances.
Not only do the accolades speak for themselves, the Wolverines have dominated on their home turf at Clyde Field with a 28-4-5 over the last four seasons.
“We have a great home environment. We have a lot of support from other student-athletes who come and heckle the other team,” junior striker Faith Webber said laughing. “It also always helps sleeping in your own bed.”
The Wolverines will play two nationally ranked teams at Clyde Field this season in No. 19 Clemson on Aug. 24 and No. 13 BYU on Sept. 2 – both games broadcast on ESPN+ – before traveling to Los Angeles to face the BIG 10 bound No. 22 USC Trojans. After the game against the Cougars on Sept. 2, Utah Valley does not play at Clyde Field again until Sept. 28 against Stephen F. Austin.
“We love the environment. There is a sense of comfort and our players really get up for their family and friends who come to the games,” seven-year head coach Chris Lemay said. “Elevation probably helps us a little too.”
With playing multiple ranked opponents at home, the athletes are taking notice.
“My first thought and focus is on the first game of the season against Hawaii,
. but I’d like to take care of BYU and Clemson at home,” Webber mentioned on who she is most excited to face. “It is always BYU.”
Webber is a second-year transfer from Delta College in University Center, Michigan. Webber is a major impact to the Wolverines scoring 14 goals and assisting on seven in just 21 games last season.
“Faith is out-goal scorer, she is going to score a bunch of goals like she did last year. She is a hard worker, competitive and the best part about her is her enthusiasm. She loves competing, her team, and she was a big-time pickup,” Lemay said. “Just is a great personality.”
It isn’t just her coaches that admire her hard work, her teammates also take notice.
“She just wants the best for you. Faith coaches me, gives me positive energy and is a great role model,” freshman pickup Nixan Jackson said. “She always lifts me and the team up.”
“I love it out here. I love the intensity we play at and the scale is so much higher at UVU. It’s like my home away from home. I feel really connected,” Webber said. “It’s beautiful here. I play with such high-quality players and we just make each other better. We are raising each other’s level because we are all such good players.”
Jackson, who was signed out of Maple Mountain High School in Spanish Fork, Utah, was pivotal for the Golden Eagles three region championships where she scored 41 career goals according to her player profile on UVU’s soccer roster summary.
According to Lemay, Jackson is expected to be in the day-one starting lineup in addition to another freshman Elle Young who graduated from Lone Peak High School last year.
Even though young athletes are getting playing time, the Wolverines returned most of their production from last season. UVU returns four of their top five goal scorers from last season including redshirt senior Heather Stainbrook who scored 13 goals for the Wolverines last year, good for second most on the team behind Webber’s 14.
In addition to returning fire power on the offensive side, Utah Valley returns two veteran goalkeepers from last year: graduate senior Idalia Serrano and sophomore Leah Wolf. The two combined for all 22 of the teams’ starts last season while combining minimal playing time from Hailey Hillock who graduated at the end of the season.
“We have a senior-laden team for sure. Now it is about managing expectations and trying not to get ahead of ourselves and focus on game one,” Lemay expressed.
With the return of so much talent, Utah Valley is expected to be at the top of the conference. The WAC Preseason Coaches Poll listed the Wolverines to win the conference this season – recieving 79 votes – and claim their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth.
In addition to the coaches voting Utah Valley to win the WAC, senior midfielder Jenna Shepherd was voted 2023 WAC Preseason Co-Offensive Player of the Year with Stainbrook recieving Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Utah Valley opened up season play in Hawaii as they tied the Rainbow Wahine 1-1 on Thursday Aug. 17 in Honolulu. Webber scored in the 59th minute after a beautiful ball was sent into the box by BYU transfer forward Ruby Hladek. Hawaii equalized the match in the 84th minute which secured the draw for the Rainbow Wahine.
Utah Valley continued their trip in Hawaii as they defeated Houston Christian on Aug. 20 5-1 which concluded their two-game trip in Honolulu. Webber recorded a brace in the game, scoring two goals within six minutes of the second half. The Wolverines improved to 1-0-1 on the season.
Five Wolverines were voted to the preseason all-conference team including: Shepherd, Webber, Stainbrook, Lee and senior defender Hannah Lee.
The Wolverines’ longest road-trip is five games stretching across two and a half weeks in September with the longest home stand being three games at the very end of the season.
The Wolverines opened up at home on Aug. 24 against No. 25 Clemson.
Nathan Dunn is the Sports Editor for the UVU Review. After three years at Utah State, Nathan is majoring in Public Relations and Digital Media at Utah Valley University. In his free time, Nathan likes to watch all sports but mostly College Football. Nathan works hard to give the best sports content to UVU fans, media, and students.