It was a long week for the Wasatch boys soccer team, especially if you count travel time. That didn’t show up in its box scores, however, as the top ranked team in 3A won two games in three days by a combined score of 11-1.
Friday night, Wasatch traveled to Vernal to take on Uintah High School in its first region match of the season. Despite having to overcome rough field conditions and a two-hour bus ride, the visitors came away with a 5-1 victory.
Less than 48 hours before its trip to Uintah, Wasatch traveled to Logan on Wednesday night and defeated Sky View, 6-0. “Yeah that trip may have taken a little longer than the one today,” joked Wasp forward Ben Powell. “We played well in both games though,” he added. “But it’ll be good to have two in a row at home next week.”
Against Uintah, Wasatch, as it has done several times this year, scored quickly. Junior midfielder Isaac Smedly kicked a ball to the back of the net three minutes into the game, and the Wasps were on their way. The Utes would not allow the early goal to bother them, however, and continued their physical style play.
For the next 30 minutes they challenged Wasatch with tough defense and forced the visiting team to make mistakes in the cramped space of their smaller field. The Wasps struggled to find their timing and committed multiple fouls, giving Uintah several scoring chances with direct kicks.
The game remained 1-0 for nearly 30 minutes when senior midfielder Domey Espinoza found Powell open in the middle for a score. It was Powell’s eighth goal on the season and gave the visitors a bit of breathing room.
But with only a minute remaining in the first half, Uintah forward Spencer Sietz broke free and beat Wasatch goalkeeper Cody Cowley with a goal, bringing his team to within one and briefly capturing some momentum.
The Wasps would regain control of the game shortly after, during extended time, before the half expired. Powell hit fellow senior Hunter Ketterer with a pass that the defenseman put past the Ute goalie for his first goal of the season, giving Wasatch a 3-1 advantage at the half.
Wasatch head coach Dawain Wheatley spent the break stressing ball control. “We had gotten a little careless and were hurrying things,” he said. “We really emphasized distributing the ball better in the second half despite the shorter field,” the coach added. “The guys responded well and we played much better in the second half.”
The pace slowed considerably as Wasatch found its groove moving the ball around. Eighteen minutes into the half, senior striker Alex Espinoza made what Wheatley called "a daring move," bringing the ball across the field just inside the penalty box where he was pushed. Espinoza was awarded a penalty kick, which he converted for his eighth goal on the season, putting his team up 4-1.
Powell would add his ninth goal of the season, a 10-yard shot from a very difficult angle, with eight minutes left in the contest. “We’ve been playing well, no doubt,” said the second leading scorer statewide. “I’m looking forward to next week’s games — I think we all are,” he added. “We’ve played some teams we don’t normally play early on and have done pretty good. Now it’s time to go against our rivals and see how we stack up.”
Wheatley was cautious in praise of his team after the match. “It was a good game. It was a well officiated game,” he said. “I would have liked to see us play a little better at the beginning. And we definitely had too many fouls, but it was physical out there. There were bloody noses and guys going to the ground,” he added. “This is a tough place to play. It’s a different kind of field choppy and hard, but that’s no excuse. We’ve been coming here for years and know exactly what to expect. You have to give Uintah credit,” he concluded. “They’ve really improved and played us hard. We’re very happy with the win.”
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and is a contributor to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org