UVU men’s soccer gaining confidence but still falls to No. 3 Washington in OT
UVU head men’s soccer coach Kyle Beckerman has seen his Wolverines make tremendous strides since he took over in April.
“It’s been a really positive start,” Beckerman said Thursday. “The progression from Day 1 to now has been incredible. All credit to these guys for putting in the work. We’re really happy with where we are at from No. 1 to No. 32 on the roster, which is all you can ask for as a coach.”
It’s had to be a process, since Beckerman has adjusted a lot with how UVU plays the game.
“It’s been about our style of play and the way we want to play,” Beckerman said. “That’s our focus. It’s not so much who we are playing. It’s this is how we want to play, whether we are at home or away, whether it’s a top team in the country or a team that is struggling. We want to play the same way. We switched up quite a bit from what they were doing in the past and it’s taken a little getting used to but it’s improving in each game and each practice. They’ve become better soccer players, so it’s really been a blast to see.”
There has been a nice payoff as the Wolverines battled to three wins and two draws in their first five games — but UVU faced its biggest test of the year Thursday night.
That was when No. 3-ranked Washington came to Clyde Field in Orem, one of the highest ranked teams ever to play at UVU.
It turned out to be an exciting, physical battle against the Huskies with the action going back and forth.
Although the Wolverines gave Washington everything it could handle, the Huskies found an extra gear late in the game and it paid off in overtime. Washington senior defender Ryan Sailor was the hero as he used his 6-foot-4 frame to head in the game-winner off a corner kick as the Huskies got the 2-1 (OT) victory.
The Wolverines had the most opportunities in the first half, having a couple of shots go just wide in the first 15 minutes of play.
It would be the visitors, however, that struck first.
Washington drew a foul in the UVU box, resulting in a penalty kick. UVU freshman keeper Jason Smith guessed right and made a terrific lunging block on the initial kick.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the ball ricocheted back into the middle of the field where Huskie senior defender Achille Robin won the race to the ball and put it in for the 1-0 lead.
The Washington advantage would be short-lived as UVU got the ball deep in Washington territory.
Husky sophomore keeper Sam Fowler came out to make a play but wasn’t able to get the ball, instead colliding with the UVU attacker. Fowler received a yellow card while the Wolverines were awarded a penalty kick of their own.
UVU freshman midfielder Diego Castillo calmly stepped up and — after Fowler had committed himself — chipped the ball in for the equalizer.
The Wolverines had the edge both in total shots (9-7) and in shots on goal (4-2) in the first half as Washington didn’t get another attempt to go on frame other than the two shots in the penalty-kick sequence.
In the second half, both teams had an opportunity to take the lead early. UVU had a couple more shots slide wide, while the Huskies had a sliding opportunity in the Wolverine box that just didn’t quite get to the cross.
As time wound down, however, Washington started getting more and more opportunities. Smith made a couple of fantastic saves to help UVU last through regulation, but the Husky execution in the 94th minute on the final corner kick was excellent.
The ball was sent long by junior midfielder Dylan Teves to where junior defender Kendall Burks could get to it, who headed back into the middle where Sailor was waiting. His header was on frame and hit the net, sparking the Washington celebration.
While the huge upset would’ve been nice for UVU (3-1-2), Beckerman’s goal was to see his squad stay composed and play their style of soccer, even against an elite opponent.
“Our thought coming in was seeing if we can do what we do against at top team in the country,” Beckerman said. “We wanted to try to have the game on our terms. We were looking forward to testing ourselves and trying to prove to ourselves that we can do it against a top opponent.”
The game was the final non-conference contest for UVU this season, and also was the 10th time UVU has hosted a Top 25 team.
The Wolverines are now 4-4-2 against ranked opponents at home and 4-9-3 overall. The third-ranked Huskies are also the highest ranking ever for a UVU opponent.
UVU begins WAC play next week an in-state foe Dixie State in the inaugural Old Hammer Rivalry match on Saturday, Sept. 25 in St. George, Utah.