By BRUCE JACOBS
The men’s soccer team outscored its opponents 23-2 over six tournament games to win its third-straight club national championship Saturday. The Cougars defeated Texas Tech University 4-0 in the final.
Freshman Brandon LeRoy was named most valuable player of the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Championships. The powerful forward led the Cougars to their third title with five tournament goals.
LeRoy downplayed his individual accomplishments to focus on the team effort.
“I was just impressed with our team play,” LeRoy said. “All my goals were pretty easy because they came off such great assists. Everyone stepped up and played really well. We made a statement, that’s for sure.”
Three other Cougars, senior defenders Nate Morris and Abe Millet, and goalkeeper John Morris were named to the all-tournament team.
“It’s fantastic,” Millet said of winning three championships in a row. “It feels great. The defense was just extraordinary and … the bench made a huge difference. They kept our team rested while other teams were killing themselves in overtime.”
Head coach Chris Watkins said the Cougar team played its best soccer of the year in the NIRSA tournament.
“This is the best BYU team that has ever been assembled as far as I know,” Watkins said. “In the last four games we were unstoppable. They really represent the university well.”
As the two-time tournament champions, the Cougars were really targeted by the other teams, Watkins said.
“Against Purdue, we were down 1-0 at halftime, even though we dominated the game to that point,” Watkins said. “They acted like they’d just won the national championship.”
The Cougars went on to beat Purdue 4-1.
As a club team, the Cougars can expect no fanfare, no ticker-tape parade and no phone call from the president. But LeRoy said the players have reason to celebrate anyway.
“Really, the satisfaction just comes from knowing that even though we’re not sanctioned we can play with anybody,” LeRoy said.
Nate Morris agreed that knowing the Cougars could perform at the Division I level brings a sense of fulfillment.
“We know that we are at the top of the club national sports,” Nate said. “We feel like there’s not a club team in the whole nation that could beat us if we’re playing our best. I really think this team is the best I’ve been on in my three years here. That says a lot about the quality of the players.”
Freshman midfielder Chad Deshler, who scored two goals in the final game, said being associated with the members of the team has been the best reward.
“It’s just a great bunch of guys,” Deshler said. “We’re just a big family. (The players) get a lot of respect from people for how they act. Our team’s really humble about the success we’ve had. We don’t need (the recognition).”
LeRoy said the team has generated respect everywhere they’ve gone this year.
“Pretty much everyone was just in awe of us,” LeRoy said. “We have some really classy players on our team, both on and off the field.”
Watkins said the team’s success this year will help him continue to schedule games against Division I schools.
“The only thing that helps us schedule those games is that we can tell (the coaches) that we’ve beaten other Division I teams and won the club national championship three years in a row,” Watkins said.
For the year, the Cougars outscored their opponents 79-16. Against club teams, BYU scored 71 goals, while only being scored on 7 times.