By Joseph Evans
The BYU men”s soccer team looks to win its seventh national championship this weekend in Bakersfield, Calif.
The men”s team is the defending national champion after they swept the competition at last year”s national tournament in Alabama.
“Teams will be looking to dethrone us,” junior forward Matt Affleck said. “The competition has raised its level of play and we must match that.”
The Cougars face Indiana at 10 a.m. today in their first ever meeting.
BYU is in a pool with four first place regional champions, including Rice and Delaware.
“This year will be a lot tougher than last year,” junior forward Brad Peterson said.
Peterson will see his first significant action of the season after sitting out most of the Cougar”s undefeated regular season. Head coach Chris Watkins considers him as one of the top 15 collegiate players in the country.
“The other teams will be playing with a lot of emotion and it makes it even tougher to win,” Peterson said.
After playing each of the other three teams in their pool, the top two teams advance to the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.
BYU could advance to play in-state rival Weber State in the elimination rounds. The teams actually took the same plane to Los Angeles Wednesday, with some friendly exchanges taking place.
“The opposing teams will always play their best against us because of our past history of success,” assistant coach Chad Sackett said. “If we don”t play our best, it is not going to happen.”
“Our focus for this tournament right now is our first opponent Indiana tomorrow morning,” head coach Chris Watkins said. “We can”t look too far ahead or we will be going home early.”
The Cougars hope to represent their school well with an unprecedented seventh title in their last season as a club program. The team is going to the professional USL league in April of next year. Players and coaches said the move will not be a distraction for the team this weekend.
“We expect to win,” Peterson said.