OREM -- Coming of a 1-0 overtime win at CSU Bakersfield in its final non-conference tune-up, the Utah Valley University women's soccer team opens Great West Conference play against NJIT at 7 p.m. Friday night at Clyde Field.
For the Wolverines, Friday marks the first home match in nearly three weeks as the team has played its last six matches on the road.
Following a tough week with close losses to No. 9 BYU and Loyola Marymount, UVU (2-10-1) got back in the win column with a thrilling 1-0 victory over CSUB on Tuesday.
After a scoreless 90 minutes, the Wolverines were faced with their sixth overtime match of the season. Without a win in their previous five overtime endeavors, the Wolverines pushed the offensive attack early in the extra period. Only 4:04 into the overtime, senior Regan Benson took possession wide of the box and sent a cross to freshman Lexi Felis. Redeeming a near miss in the first half, Felis' header found the back of the net for the game winner.
The win snapped a 10-match winless skid for UVU, which was selected in the preseason to repeat as GWC Regular Season champions.
"It's good to get a good win heading into conference play and gain some confidence back," Wolverine head coach Brent Anderson said. "We know conference will be challenging and we've got a long way to go, but we're excited. It's a fresh start for us and the girls are excited to see what we can accomplish."
NJIT enters Friday's match at 2-8-3 and is winless in its last seven games. Most recently, the Highlanders fell 4-0 to Penn of the Ivy League. Friday stands as NJIT's league-opener as well.
Senior forward Gechi Ukaegbu and freshman midfielder Erin Williams-Weir have each tallied three goals this year to lead the Highlanders in scoring. Megan Dellavalle, a sophomore forward, is right behind them with two. In the assists column, freshman midfielder Madeline Griep has delivered a team-high three.
Freshman Samantha Bersett is NJIT's top goalkeeper, notching two shutouts on the year with a goals against average of 1.80. Her 73 saves on the season are good for second in the GWC.
The Highlanders, the only other team to receive a first-place vote in the GWC preseason poll, have one road win on the year - a 3-0 victory over Saint Peter's in the season-opener. NJIT's other win is a 2-1 home triumph over Monmouth on Sept. 2.
UVU enters conference season behind a team-high five goals from Benson, followed by three from junior Natalie Baker. Benson also has two assists on the year, giving her a team-leading 12 points.
Lauren Sack, who recorded her first clean sheet on Tuesday, remains in goal for the Wolverines. The junior is the reigning GWC Defensive Player of the Week, coming off an eight-save night at No. 9 BYU last Thursday. Sack has 46 saves this season.
UVU has never lost to NJIT, owning a 5-0-0 record all-time against the Highlanders.
This year, the team will honor UVU graduate and former track and field athlete Kalina Clegg in her battle with ovarian cancer. A native of Cottonwood Heights, Clegg ran both cross-country and track at UVU and was Second Team All-Conference as a freshman in 2008.
The Wolverines will also honor Lexe Selman, a Utah-native who has put her collegiate soccer career at the University of Arizona on hold due to her fight with leukemia.
The first 250 fans to Clyde Field will receive a free pink t-shirt and pink donation buckets will be available at the match with proceeds going to Primary Children's Hospital.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
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