By Colby O’Very
Chris Watkins, head coach of the BYU soccer team, receives 20 to 25 phone calls and e-mails every day from potential players who want to come to BYU because of last month”s announcement that it would be joining a professional soccer league.
“I can”t keep up … the attention we”ve received has been overwhelming,” Watkins said.
The team has joined the Premier Development League, a league comparable to the single-A level in professional baseball.
Most of the attention has come from potential players, but since BYU announced the change, ESPN has run an article, and the team even made the front page of The New York Times.
BYU started practice last week and now faces the daunting task of moving from a league it has dominated for years to a more difficult league.
“We have to play our best every day to have a chance to win,” Watkins said.
But the pressure has had a positive effect on the players, who Watkins said are “clearly more motivated and anxious.”
“It pushes us to work harder,” said team captain Brad Peterson, a junior forward from Las Vegas. “Everyone”s commitment level has gone up drastically.”
Peterson said there are a lot of unknowns involved in moving the team to a different level.
“We don”t know a whole lot about the other teams,” Peterson said. “The anticipation is great.”
Peterson said he”s a little nervous about playing in a new league, but teammate Erik Walunas, a sophomore goalkeeper, had different feelings.
“I”m not nervous, we still have to go out there and prove ourselves,” Walunas said. “With all the attention we”ve been getting, we want to prove ourselves.”
Walunas said this situation has brought the team together and made the team unity much better.
The Cougars are slotted to play their first exhibition game on April 25th, in Mexico.
Their first home game is May 2nd against Nevada.
“Come early if you want to get in,” Watkins said.