By Charles Barnard
Since the announcement that Utah Valley University was getting the state's first division one soccer team, I have been curious. I wasn’t sure why but I was somewhat interested in this team. Questions kept coming to my mind about the team. What would this team mean to the soccer community in Utah? Would the team have any type of positive effects on RSL? Would the soccer be any good?
I will be honest; I have not watched much if any college soccer in my life. I wasn’t sure what the answer would be to any of the questions above. But I was curious so I thought I would sit back and see what this new team would bring.
As time went by I started to hear more and more about the team. As I heard about some of the players that would be playing there, my interest level started to rise. Then I started to talk to Coach Maas over Twitter. He seemed like a really good guy. I was really starting to hope that this team would take off.
Last Friday I had the chance to go down to UVU and check out the final practice before their inaugural home match. In talking with Coach Maas I discovered two things. One, he really is a great guy, and two, he really knows his stuff. I also had the chance to speak with team captains Skyler Milne and Karson Payton. Both players were very gracious with their time and were both very excited for the upcoming match against UMass.
Opening night finally arrived last Saturday. I had decided a while ago that I would skip out on watching the RSL match so I could attend. I took my 10 year old daughter with me to see if I could really answer any of those questions that I had.
Both my daughter and I were blown away by our experience. We arrived early and were shocked with how many people were there. The stands were almost full a half hour before game time. By the time the game started, fans were sitting all along the sideline of the field or anywhere else they could find a seat. The announced attendance was 2,610 but I honestly think there might have been even more than that there.
There was a sense of excitement in the air at kickoff. My daughter who had never been to a UVU sporting event before was already a huge fan yelling and shaking her Wolverine pom-pom in the air. It didn’t take long for the stadium to erupt when Payton, a former RSL youth player, scored the first goal in UVU history just six minutes into the match.
The festive atmosphere continued throughout the match. The Wolverine mascots entertained the crowd (my daughter loved both of them) and the UVU “Green Man Group” (think Blue Man Group but in green) preformed at half time.
I had truly forgotten how much fun a college game in any sport could be, especially when you have family and friends there to support particular players. We happened to be sitting amongst the family and friends of UVU midfielder Lucas Cawley. It was fun listening to them yell and cheer every time he had the ball and it was a joy to see their excitement when he scored a goal just before halftime.
And the scoring just didn’t stop. By the 65th minute, UVU had scored its 5th goal on the night (by 5 different players) and would coast home to a 5-1 victory.
The team had absolutely answered one of my questions. I had wondered if the soccer would be any good. The answer to that was a big yes. Coach Maas has put together a very talented bunch of kids and has them playing a very attractive style of soccer. It will be interesting to see how they do against some of the more talented teams in the WAC but for at least one night they made me a believer. They also have a huge fan in my daughter who was already asking me to go to another game as we were walking back to our car.
But what about my other questions above? Those questions might take a bit more time to answer. Throughout the rest of this week on the blog I will be looking into these questions. I will share the interview that I conducted with Coach Maas and the team captains. Plus I will write up my thoughts (as well as others) on how this team might help RSL.