OREM — After starting the season 0-3, the UVSC women's soccer team is now 3-2 in its past five games after defeating Portland State in overtime Monday.
During the recent successful stretch, three newcomers to the Wolverine soccer program — Jenni Wright, Addie Hair and Courtney Asay-Robbins — have served as invaluable catalysts in sparking the team's turnaround.
"They are awesome," UVSC coach Justin Wagar said. "Those three are the biggest impacts that we've had this year."
Wright, a freshman midfielder who prepped at Bingham High, has scored three of the Wolverines' seven goals — including a pair in UVSC's first win of the year, a 3-1 conquest of California Baptist.
"Jenni Wright works her tail off," Wagar said. "For her size — she's what, 5-foot-1 or 5-foot-2? — she is just a little workhorse. She's a scrapper. She's persistent, she's tenacious, she's just an amazing little fighter in there."
Fellow freshman Hair is the team's fastest player and best athlete, Wagar said. A defender, Hair was a recruiting priority coming out of Lone Peak High for a UVSC team that struggled last year on the defensive end.
"Addie was our No. 1 recruit that we went after defensively," Wagar said. "One of our holes last year was our marking backs, where we kind of struggled having someone that could shut down one of their top forwards."
Hair has started all eight games so far for the Wolverines. Capable of covering a lot of ground and sticking with the swiftest striker, Hair has still had some growing moments as she adjusted to the speed of the college game.
"She is learning as the season goes on," Wagar said. "She had some hard times early with decisionmaking, being a freshman. She gave up a few (penalty kicks) early, just lack of experience — it's hard for a freshman to come in and guard the top players on the other team."
Robbins is the long-tooth of the trio of newcomers. A junior midfielder, Robbins transferred from BYU.
"She just wasn't happy (at BYU)," Wagar said. "They have a roster, about 36 players, where she didn't feel she was getting enough attention. A lot of girls are supposedly in that boat. I think she wanted a personal atmosphere where she could get a good chance and enjoy soccer again, because she wasn't having fun."
With an impressive resume that includes being named state player of the year twice while at Mountain View and two collegiate seasons with the Cougars, Robbins has the perspective and experience to know it's important for a team to stay loose.
"To be honest with you," Wagar said, "she's just a big jokester. The team just loves her; her sense of humor is awesome. She'll be someone to pick us up and joke around."
Robbins has two goals to her credit, including UVSC's first of the season in the win over California Baptist.
Despite the Wolverines' hard-earned progress, improvement doesn't take the sting away from tough losses such as the game last week at the Border Shootout in El Paso, Texas, where UVSC lost 1-0 to Louisiana Monroe. Despite outshooting the Indians 18-13, the frustrated Wolverines couldn't find the back of the net.
"The worst part," Wagar said, "is heartbreaking losses in those tight games where we are just in them and we are dominating play and dominating possession and getting shot after shot and just can't find the back of the net to get us there."
The occasional frustrations, however, have not sapped Wagar of his enthusiasm and optimism.
"Our challenge is to work past that," Wagar said, "and really start believing that we can win here at UVSC. A big difference will be believing that we are a good team, that we can do this, that we can achieve."
The Wolverines travel today to Las Vegas, where they will face UNLV Saturday and Northern Arizona Sunday.
WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The Wolverines stole a game from the University of Utah last week before ultimately succumbing 3 games to 1. UVSC, 4-6 on the year, visits North Dakota State tomorrow and South Dakota State Saturday.
CROSS COUNTRY: This past weekend at the Roy Griak meet in St. Paul, Minn., junior Joe Bendoski and freshman Kim Rowberry were the Wolverines' top male and female finishers, respectively.
WOMEN'S GOLF: The good news: Whitney Drumright, Ashley Baldwin and Shari Johnson became the first women's golfers to ever compete in an intercollegiate event last week at the Northern Arizona University Mountain Shootout in Flagstaff. The bad news: the trio shot a combined 115-over par for the tourney's two rounds of golf.
MEN'S GOLF: The men's squad traveled to Kansas City earlier this week to compete in the Bill Ross Intercollegiate. Through two rounds, junior Nic van Vuuren was in third place with a 1-over 145.