UVU soccer: Wolverine women's soccer prepares for 2013 season
OREM — For four seasons the Utah Valley University women's soccer team was the class of the Great West Conference, claiming hardware in each year the league was in existence. The Wolverines claimed three of four GWC tournament championships, two outright regular season titles and two division crowns, running its all-time GWC record to 28-3-1. Twenty-eight all-conference performers emerged from those teams, including the conference's Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
As with every season, the Wolverines will look to build on its past successes. But that progression carries added weight as UVU enters its first season in the Western Athletic Conference with sights on a new end goal — automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament.
"I expect that the success we experienced in the Great West to translate over into the WAC," said head coach Brent Anderson, who's entering his eighth season at the helm of Wolverine women's soccer. "In our time in the Great West we learned how to win games, we learned how to operate in conference play, and we learned how to advance in a tournament. There's a certain amount of confidence that is earned alongside those achievements. The WAC is a quality league with a lot of new faces and opponents for us, but I believe our past accomplishments and experiences have prepared us for similar success."
In 2012, the Wolverines grinded out a 9-11-1 record through a schedule that was rife with close calls that often found UVU on the wrong side of the score line. Of the Wolverines' 11 losses, five came in the overtime period and one in the waning seconds of regulation. In all, only one defeat came by a margin greater than one — a 4-2 loss at fellow WAC member Seattle University. The Wolverines also battled hard at ninth-ranked BYU, the difference being a Cougar goal just seconds before halftime. Despite the ups and downs of the non-conference season, UVU found its footing in GWC play. A perfect 5-0-0 league record gave the Wolverines their second straight regular season title and plenty of momentum heading into the conference tournament. There, Utah Valley cruised through its semifinal and final matches by identical 5-2 score lines, winning its third GWC tournament title and closing the season on a high note that should resonate as the 2013 season draws near.
The Wolverines return 14 letterwinners from that 2012 squad, including six starters. Anderson, looking to reload following the departures of past lineup staples Regan Benson (F), Jaime Lyons (F), Shalayne Janis (M) and Kelsey Kimball Cook (D), also added 10 newcomers to this season's roster.
"We've got a lot of young players and a lot of newcomers, but they've all bought in immediately to the program," Anderson said. "They understand what is expected of them and they have met those expectations. I think they are challenging our upperclassmen and we are going to see some freshmen that have earned starting spots. That's big for our program and speaks to the ability and competitiveness of our newcomers."
Utah Valley's long run of success in the GWC did not go unnoticed by the WAC's head coaches. Released just over a week ago, the WAC Coaches' Poll picked the Wolverines to finish in a tie for second, alongside Idaho and just behind conference favorite Seattle. The Redhawks garnered six of a possible seven first-place votes with the only other first-place nod going to UVU. Coming off their 2012 seasons, Utah Valley goalkeeper Lauren Sack (Reno, Nev.) and midfielder Lexi Robison (Orem, Utah) were named to the WAC's Preseason All-Conference team.
"We were happy to get that kind of recognition from the league's coaches and I think that gives the girls some confidence, but it's also a motivating factor," Anderson said of the preseason poll. "Any time you are picked that high in the league poll you end up with a target on your back. We know that we're going to get everyone's best shot and that we are going to have to step up our game to prove ourselves worthy of that ranking."
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