The Utah Valley University men's soccer team is set to make program history when it hosts Massachusetts for its inaugural match Saturday at Clyde Field in Orem. The first-year Wolverines are the only NCAA Division I men's soccer program in Utah.
It's a program that's been nearly two years in the making and was announced when Utah Valley accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference in 2012. Greg Maas was hired as the program's first head coach soon after and, along with associate head coach Matt Ellinger, has been building his first roster since.
It's a roster that consists of 18 true freshmen and six redshirt freshmen, naturally making it one of the youngest rosters in the country in terms of collegiate experience. UVU does have seven players on the team with a prior NCAA soccer background including senior Cameron Kidwell, who played at Towson and is the team's lone senior. Kidwell's trek to UVU is rare. He left Towson after it cut its program at the end of last season, and he came to Orem to be a part of Utah Valley's first season.
A handful of players have participated in club soccer at the collegiate level including one of the team's co-captains in Skyler Milne, who played for Ellinger while attending the University of Utah. Milne and redshirt freshman Karson Payton are the team's co-captains, with Alex Neff serving as the team's vice captain.
Payton originally signed with Cal Poly out of Timpview High School in Provo but has landed back in Utah after serving an LDS mission. A highly-recruited high school player, AmericanSoccerNow.com highlighted Payton on Wednesday, calling him one of eight college players who could impact the pros.
As expected of a program in its rookie season, Utah Valley was picked to finish at the bottom of the WAC preseason coaches' poll. The 10-team WAC will take six teams to the conference tournament in November in Seattle. The Wolverines will play their first league game on Oct. 4, against the reigning regular season and tournament champion Seattle University, which was picked to repeat in the preseason poll.
UVU Soccer: 2014 men's season preview
UVU men's soccer coach Greg Maas, as well as players Karson Payton and Skyler Milne, discuss their thoughts and feelings for their upcoming inaugural season. UVU hosts its inaugural match Saturday.
Clint Burgi is the assistant athletic director for sports information at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.