OREM — A day almost a year in the making, the Utah Valley University women's soccer team will officially usher in the WAC era when it faces Bakersfield in a Western Athletic Conference clash Friday at Clyde Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Friday also begins a WAC-opening home-and-home series between UVU and CSUB, as the two sides will face off again Sunday afternoon in Bakersfield. It is the first WAC competition for any sport at UVU since accepting a bid to join the league on Oct. 9, 2012.
"It's an honor for us to represent UVU and the athletic department as we make the transition into the WAC," head coach Brent Anderson said. "We'll be playing, but we know that Friday night is not totally about us. It's about the years of hard work from a lot of people — President Holland, (former athletic director) Mike Jacobsen and the other administrators that got us to this point.
"We're also representing all the coaches and student-athletes that have been here in the past and laid the foundations for where we are today. It's a very meaningful time for myself and the players to be able to represent the efforts of all these great individuals and this university."
The match will be televised by UVU TV and streamed live on UVU's TV website. Live stats are also accessible.
Utah Valley (2-5-0) enters Friday's contest off a win after defeating UC Davis, 2-1, on Sunday. The Wolverines got goals from senior forward Natalie Baker and junior midfielder Lexi Robison within the first 21 minutes of play and held on for the final 70 minutes to secure the victory — the program's first over UC Davis or any Big West Conference member.
For her efforts against the Aggies — a goal and an assist on Robison's game-winner — Baker was awarded the WAC's Offensive Player of the Week award. It was the first weekly honor to be given to Wolverine women's soccer and the third of the fall season for the UVU athletic program.
Baker now has two goals to her name on the season and is one behind team-leader Haley Curtis. Sitting in a tie atop the league's scoring list with three tallies on the year, the senior forward Curtis also ranks first in the conference in total shots (22) and shots per game (3.14). True freshman Taylor Kirk also has two goals while three others — Robison, Sheridan Fox and Kali Stubbs — have one.
Lauren Sack played a full 90 minutes Sunday in picking up her second win of the season. For the year, the senior leads the WAC at 4.71 saves per game. She has 33 total saves and a .750 save percentage — figures that currently rank second in the conference.
UVU is 6-1-0 all-time in conference openers, including a 4-0-0 mark during its time in the Great West Conference.
The Roadrunners (1-6-0) will also be playing their first WAC match Friday and will be looking to snap a six-game losing skid with a win in Orem. Bakersfield started off the season with a 4-1 win over Southern Utah but has since dropped its last six contests by a combined score of 18-3.
Most recently, the `Runners suffered a 2-0 setback at the hands of UC Riverside, marking the third straight contest that CSUB has been held goalless.
Senior midfielder Erica Shelton leads the `Runners with three goals, all of which came in the season opener against SUU. The hat trick was enough to earn Shelton the season's first WAC Offensive Player of the Week award.
Beyond Shelton, four other CSUB players have scored a single time thus far, including Swedish true freshman Hedda Regefalk and senior midfielder Taylor Jordan. Junior forward Emily Noethe, who joined Shelton on the Preseason All-WAC team, scored her lone goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to Sacramento State at the start of September.
Goalkeeper Tori Ornela has started five matches this season and has recorded 21 saves at a .583 clip. Megan Vina has the other two starts, stopping nine shots in 185 minutes of action.
"Every time we've played Bakersfield it's been a tight, physical contest," Anderson said. "We know that we'll have to be prepared in order to be successful and we know that they're hungry to get a win and get the conference season started right. They're in a bit of slump, but that adds to their danger since they are desperate and determined to get out of it. That extra bit of fire can be difficult to compete with sometimes."
Friday marks the third meeting all-time between the two programs with the series tied at 1-1. Utah Valley prevailed in the most recent installment, needing overtime to top the `Runners 1-0 in California last year. Bakersfield claimed the series' first meeting with a 3-1 win in Orem on Oct. 23, 2008.
Utah Valley will have little time for rest as it returns to action Sunday against the very same opponent. The Wolverines and Roadrunners will do it again, this time at CSUB's Main Soccer Field at 1 p.m. MT.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.