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The Weber State University men’s soccer team returned to action Friday night to take on in-state rival Utah Valley University. The Wildcats had returned early in the week from a tournament in California, where they were crowned champions after beating teams from the University of Southern California and San Diego State University.
On a cold, windy night, the Wildcats were ready to do battle with a team they knew was going to come out and play hard. The first half served as a time for adjustment for both teams. Neither team could find the back of the net, and the goalkeepers were able to keep their clean sheet for the first 45 minutes.
UVU was able to garner a corner kick in the early stages of the second half. The Wolverines took the lead on the set piece as one of the players was able to poke the ball past the goalkeeper, giving UVU an early 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats didn’t let that faze them, as they were awarded a penalty kick when the UVU goalkeeper made contact with a WSU player by shoving him with the ball. Goalkeeper Jeff Rogers slotted the ball in the bottom right corner to even the game at 1-1. The game was all but over, as both teams had a strong desire to beat the other.
Wildcat Cord Stimpson maintained a long ball, made the defenders miss and beat the UVU goalkeeper to give WSU the lead 2-1. It seemed as if the Wildcats got too comfortable with the ball, as they turned the ball over in their own third. UVU capitalized on that chance, and the goalkeeper just missed the ball. With just a few minutes left, both teams had their chance to score the winning goal.
After some fancy footwork and breaking past two defenders, the ball was kicked into the box, where Jaden Bybee one-touched the ball in the back of the net. Shortly after that, the referee blew the whistle, concluding a high-scoring half. The Wildcats walked away with a 3-2 win.
Coach Kyle Christensen said he was pleased with his team’s effort, as the men were able to play well when they needed to in order to win.
“We had moments of brilliance where the team connected on good plays that led to a bunch of goals,” Christensen said. “After big wins in California, it seemed that it took us a while to get things together. They have been in situations like that before against rivals and got the win.”
Player Matt Blanchard said he was happy to get a win and that he felt it was all because the team didn’t lose faith and played united.
“We just came together as a team. Kyle gave us a lot of good advice,” Blanchard said. “The fresh legs really helped us out.”
After giving up the equalizer late in the game, Christensen said he was confident the players would respond, and he never doubted they would win the game.
“I didn’t stop thinking that we would win. I was confident that we would still get a good result, that they would get a good result,” he said. “They have done it before. I had total confidence in them.”