OREM, UTAH – The Utah Valley University women's soccer team scored five goals for the third straight contest en route to a 5-2 victory over Howard University to clinch the 2012 Great West Conference Tournament title Monday night at Clyde Field.
"When we began this season we set a goal to be in the title game and to win it," UVU head coach Brent Anderson said. "The girls put it together over the last month and they've been playing with more confidence and more creativity and as a team we've just been playing great soccer down the stretch."
UVU (9-11-1) wasted no time opening the scoring, as Haley Curtis fired the Wolverines' first shot of the game past Howard keeper Kyra Dickinson with only 53 seconds missing from the first half clock.
Senior Regan Benson doubled the advantage in the fifth minute, converting a Jaime Lyons corner kick for her 10th goal of the year. Lyons' free kick glanced off the head of freshman Lexi Felis and straight to the feet of Benson, who tapped the ball around the recovering Dickinson.
HU (4-16-2), who had overcome deficits in both its quarterfinal and semifinal victories, seemed poised for another comeback when Retha Koeford zipped home a free kick from 25 yards.
But it was Curtis striking again in the 26th minute to restore the Wolverines' two-goal advantage. This time the junior midfielder gathered in a rebound off a blocked shot from senior Kelsey Cook and found the top left corner from 10 yards.
The Bison emerged from the halftime intermission set on another rally. It took less than three minutes for HU to tally again. Koeford got her head to a cross and the ball ricocheted off the crossbar and straight to a lurking Jordan Brown. The senior finished from six yards for her third goal in three games.
Again faced with a dwindling advantage, McKell Salmon helped UVU to some breathing room. Making a long run with the ball up the right side, Salmon held off a Bison defender for nearly 20 yards before rifling a low cross towards the center of the 18. Junior Natalie Baker, filling the space in the middle, tapped the ball home in stride to make the Wolverine lead 4-2 in the 67th minute.
Salmon provided the icing on the cake, getting into the scoring act at 86:40. Freed by a Lyons pass, Kim Stratford laid the ball to an unmarked Salmon only 12 yards from goal. The sophomore had no problems finishing the open shot, sealing the championship for UVU.
Lyons finished the night with two assists, giving her six for the tournament and earning her Tournament MVP honors. Curtis, Cook and senior Shalayne Janis were also named to the All-Tournament team for their outstanding play during the championships.
"This has been the greatest year," Lyons said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more. It's just been great to play with these girls for one more season."
Janis said she also enjoyed playing with this team and how well they played as a team.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team and how well we play together," Janis said. "This is the greatest team I've ever been a part of and I know I'll miss everyone."
Benson added that it's a great feeling to know the team made it this far this season.
"It's such a great moment to be able to share this with my team knowing all the work we've put in and the distance we've come this season," Benson said. "It's so rewarding to have come all the way to the top from when we were down earlier this season."
Set to transition into the WAC next season, UVU has won back-to-back GWC tournament championships and three of the last four. The Wolverines have also captured three regular season titles over the last four years, including consecutive regular season crowns in 2011 and 2012.
UVU also closes its GWC tenure with a remarkable 28-3-1 league record all-time.
2012 GWC All-Tournament Team:
MVP - Jaime Lyons (Utah Valley)
Kelsey Cook (Utah Valley)
Haley Curtis (Utah Valley)
Shalayne Janis (Utah Valley)
Jordan Brown (Howard)
Kyra Dickinson (Howard)
Treschelle Gibson-Serrette (Howard)
Cindy Hedden (Houston Baptist)
Arielle Rodriguez (Houston Baptist)
Sara Harris (South Carolina State)
Morgan Roesler (South Carolina State)
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.