Since the beginning of the 2011 boys high school soccer season, the Wasatch Wasps have lost just three matches. Now, with a perfect 16-0-0 regular season wrapped up, the Region 10 champions head into the 3A state tournament Thursday with no intention of ending the streak.
“It is really hard to go undefeated,” said head coach Dawain Wheatley, “especially in a really good region.”
The Wasps were tested throughout the year, playing teams that will be region foes when Wasatch moves to 4A next year and then battling through their current league. Juan Diego and Park City both pushed the Heber City team to double overtime before the Wasps escaped with wins.
“We’ve gotten more creativity this year,” Wheatley said when asked about his team’s growth throughout the season. “We know teams like to pack their defense, so (in practice) we’ll stick an extra body or two in the defensive half of the field. It makes us work harder.”
Wheatley said the Wasps’ winning comes from a combination of experience — six of the 12 seniors were major contributors during Wasatch's 2011 championship run — and passion — the boys play year-round.
“These kids just play and play,” he said. “All we (the Wasatch coaches) do is add the structure so they’re doing what we need to against a particular opponent.”
Ben Powell leads the Wasatch scoring effort with 23 goals on the season, a total that ranks him second in the state and first in 3A.
“Ben is just a finisher,” Wheatley said. “He attacks the goal from all different angles and finds a way.”
Teammate Alex Espinoza is second in 3A with 17 goals on the year. Isaac Smedley has added 10. And 11 additional players have scored goals for Wasatch, including goalkeeper senior Cody Cowley, who has also recorded seven shutouts.
“They don’t have to be the stars,” Wheatley said of his leading scorers. “I think they have as much fun getting their teammates involved.”
Wasatch will host Stansbury, the fourth-place squad out of Region 11, Thursday at 4 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament.
“I think we’ve got to be on our toes,” Wheatley said of the matchup. “Stansbury has only allowed 22 goals this year.”
Ogden has emerged as the top team in Region 11 with a perfect 11-0-0 league record with one region game remaining. The Tigers are 12-1-1 overall. The Tigers have allowed just five goals all season and just three in region play behind nine shutouts from goalkeeper Auggie Garcia. The team’s only loss was an overtime decision against 5A powerhouse Davis.
The Tigers will host a tough Judge Memorial squad in the opening round of the tournament.
In the Southern region, Pine View rallied to defeat defending champion Dixie in the final game of the season, making way for Desert Hills at the top of the standings. Thunder goalkeeper Vincent Enfield has recorded a state-best 9 1/2 shutouts during the regular season and will lead his team against Morgan this week.
Spanish Fork and Payson top the Region 12 standings and will host Cedar and Pine View, respectively.
“We know the competition is tough,” Wheatley said before listing eight different teams he feels have the potential to win the 2013 state title.
“We just focus on the next game, focus on the next practice,” he continued, “and see what we can do.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: [email protected]