A fresh sense of confidence encompasses the 2017 Utah Valley University women's soccer team as the Wolverines opened full team training sessions this past week under new head coach Chris Lemay in preparation for the upcoming season.
Lemay is eager to get out on the pitch to begin preparing for his first season with the Wolverines.
"Excitement is the easiest adjective I can come up with right now to describe how I am feeling," said Lemay. "Our players are excited. They've come in fit. We've already done some mental strength training. Everybody is excited and eager to get back on the field and we have a ton of optimism for the upcoming season."
Lemay has brought in Seth Trembly to join his UVU coaching staff this season. Trembly is a former professional player for Real Salt Lake and spent the last four years as an assistant coach at UC San Diego. He joins associate head coach Alyssa Christensen and assistant coach Kyle Christensen to complete his 2017 coaching staff. Former BYU goalkeeper Rachel Boaz also joins the staff this year as the director of operations.
"I already had some insight to the success of UVU soccer from when I lived in Utah while I was playing for Real Salt Lake," said Trembly. "I'm super excited to be here at UVU and in this community. I hope to bring my level of expertise being around the game and a higher level of accountability to our student-athletes. Our players already have a strong base and I'm excited to pass along higher levels of knowledge to them to take their abilities to new levels of understanding. I'm excited to see how much we can accomplish this year."
This year's team is looking for a fourth-straight 10-plus win season and has its sights set on a WAC title and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Lemay and his team are setting goals to help make those ambitions attainable and realistic. The squad has chosen to focus on a sense of commitment and investment that it believes will produce positive results.
"There are probably lots of teams around the country that are saying they want to win their conference title, go to the NCAA Tournament, go to the Final Four or win a national championship," Lemay said. "We've chosen to focus our goals on our level of commitment. We want to be the most committed that we can be. We want to be as invested as possible and always be playing to the best of our ability. We believe that if we live up to those goals, the results will take care of themselves."
Utah Valley returns 19 letterwinners and seven starters from its 2016 squad, including first team All-WAC honoree Breanna DeWaal. DeWaal is back for her sophomore campaign after leading the Wolverines and the WAC with 67 shots last year. She also led UVU with 23 shots on goal last season and ranked second on the team in goals scored (four) and assists (four).
Alexis Peterson, who led the Wolverines with five goals last year, returns for her senior season. She also led the team with a .737 shots on goal percentage. In all, UVU returns nearly 70 percent of its scoring from last season as the Wolverines return 10 players who accounted for 23 of UVU's 34 goals in 2016.
The Wolverines also welcome back Brooklyn Nielsen in goal for her sophomore season. Nielsen played in 16 matches for UVU in the box last season, compiling a 7-4-2 record with five shutouts, 49 saves and a 1.02 goals allowed average. Her five shutouts led the WAC last season.
"We've got an unbelievable group of returners this year," Lemay said. "We're thrilled with the experience and leadership abilities that they are going to bring. There is a core group of really great players, good students and tremendous athletes coming back."
Utah Valley welcomes eight newcomers to this year's squad, including Florida State transfer Doriana Moul. Moul, a sophomore midfielder, played in nine games and made two starts for the Seminoles last season before being sidelined with an injury. She recorded three shots, including one on goal for the former national champions. The Wolverines also welcome in a signing class of six freshmen to the squad.
"Our incoming freshman class is very strong," Lemay said. "We believe that we have some freshmen that are going to have an immediate impact on our success. We also have a couple of transfers that will play a big role for us. With our returning core and our newcomers, we feel that we are going to have a really strong program."
To help prepare the Wolverines for the WAC season, Lemay has compiled a strong non-conference slate that takes the team from Hawaii to Oklahoma, featuring stops at Hawaii, UNLV, CSUN, Tulsa, Oral Roberts, Cal State Fullerton, North Dakota State, BYU and Texas A&M.
"We're excited that we get to go to Hawaii to open the season," Lemay said. "We are excited that we get to go to Las Vegas, California, Oklahoma, Texas, Chicago and Seattle. We're looking forward to getting that experience and having the ability to see different parts of the country. We're excited to play in different environments, experience different things and play against good opponents. Every place we go to is going to have two goals and a field that is roughly 120 yards by 80 yards. We'll play anywhere. Our non-conference schedule is really strong, and we've scheduled it tough on purpose."
Utah Valley also has a strong home slate with games against Wyoming, Washington State, Seattle U, New Mexico State, UTRGV and Grand Canyon. The Wolverines have been impressive on their home pitch, compiling a 22-4-4 record during the past three seasons at Clyde Field. UVU holds an all-time 66-33-10 record at Clyde Field since moving to Division I in 2003.
"I'm excited to get out on our home pitch," Lemay said. "I'm excited to see the atmosphere and environment that I've heard so much about. It gives you so much energy as a player when you have your fellow students there supporting you."
Lemay and his team step onto the Clyde Field pitch for the first time this season on Aug. 8, when the Wolverines host Idaho State in an exhibition match. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. MT. The Wolverines officially open the season on Aug. 18, against Hawaii in Honolulu, and officially open their home slate on Sept. 8, against regional rival Wyoming.
Jason Erickson works in the communications office at the Utah Valley University athletic department. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.