For 80 of the 90 minutes in Saturday’s NCAA second-round game at Johnson Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, the UVU women’s soccer team gave No. 6-seed Arkansas all it could handle and even outscored the Razorbacks, 1-0.
It was the other 10 minutes that were the problem.
Arkansas scored a goal with less than five minutes to play in the first half, then tallied two more in the first five minutes of the second half to build a huge lead. The Wolverines tried to rally but couldn’t make up the difference and fell, 3-1, ending their season.
“I think we played some of our best soccer of the year,” UVU senior keeper Isabel Jones-Dawe said. “I’m really proud of this team and the way that we fought. We battled and I’m proud to walk off the field with that group of girls.”
Wolverine head coach Chris Lemay said loved how his squad acclimated to the speed of the play and embraced the challenge of facing a talented opponent.
“As the game went on, we grew into being able to play our brand of soccer against one of the highest pressing teams in the country,” Lemay said.
Even after the stretch where the Razorbacks put the ball in the net three times, UVU kept fighting. The Wolverines got a beautiful finish from junior forward Sadie Brockbank to narrow the gap and give her team hope.
“I thought our goal was fantastic,” Lemay said. “It was a great buildup and another awesome, class finish by Sadie Brockbank. They could have broken open because at that point we were gambling. We had to throw numbers forward in order to try to get back in the game. We didn’t concede another one but we got one and there were a couple other half chances that if it goes through with eight or nine minutes left in the game, then there might be a little bit of chaos potentially.”
Jones-Dawe said UVU showed its heart and tenacity by how it never let up, even when facing overwhelming odds.
“We’re a good team as we showed today,” Jones-Dawe said. “We just went neck-and-neck with the No. 6 team in the country and we played to the best of our abilities. We really gave all we had. Some things just didn’t fall our way today and that’s the game of soccer and that’s life. We’ve got to get back up and we’ve got to get back on our horse and come back next year.”
The Wolverines would have loved to have gotten their second NCAA win but seeing the 2020-21 season come to an end doesn’t diminish the program’s big accomplishments.
“We made history and I think it’s gonna be a very common thing to see UVU in the NCAA Tournament,” Jones-Dawe said. “We didn’t necessarily think we were the underdog. We looked across the field and saw the No. 6 team in the nation, and we were like, ‘yeah, we can do this.’ I’ve no doubt that we’ll continue to turn some heads and make some waves.”
The unique situation because of the COVID-19 pandemic means that the Wolverines will be back in action in less than four months. The hope is that they can have some of the momentum carry over.
“I think that there’s a different sense of self belief, having made this this little run and having the season that we had,” Lemay said. “We’re certainly going to try to carry that into the fall. The experience that our players gained through these first two NCAA matches I think is gonna be invaluable, especially since more than half of our starters were underclassmen. I think next year hopefully we’ll be in this round again and if we are, I think they’ll just have a better feeling of what they’re walking into.”