By David Andrews
Eighty-four hopeful soccer players assembled last week to churn up the turf as BYU held their annual tryouts in search of a few more standouts for this year?s men?s soccer team.
Players endured grueling two-a-day practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Indoor Practice Facility and Richards Building.
Competition was stiff as players from all over the nation battled for a spot on a roster that will feature only 23 names come game time.
?We?re talking about bringing something unique,? BYU men?s soccer head coach Chris Watkins said. ?We want to make the playoffs this year, so we need the best players on the field.?
For five hours each day, players were running, sprinting and scrimmaging to prove to Watkins and his assistants they possessed something to add to the only college lineup in a semi-pro soccer league.
?Everyone?s motivated by that cut list so they?re all working their hardest,? Watkins said. ?These players keep getting better and better. Each year we find extremely talented players that we had never even seen before.?
The team struggled in 2003, but Watkins has seen a lot of improvement since then. While looking for further improvement for this season, Watkins landed one of the state?s top recruits in center midfielder Tyler Christianson.
Christianson, a senior at Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, was recruited by many other Division I universities but decided BYU was a better fit.
?I?ve been really impressed with the facilities and the skill level of the players here at BYU,? Christianson said. ?I also liked the direction of the team.?
Christianson, a 1st Team All-State and two-time All-Region player in division 5A, said his goal is to start making an impact on the team this year just as soon as he graduates.
Beau Lawler, one of the other freshmen recruits, agreed that the team was headed in the right direction.
?There?s lot of good talent, and we?re in a good environment,? Lawler said. ?The coaching staff really knows what they?re doing.?
With a greatly improved record of 8-9-1 last year, the Cougars have even higher hopes for their third season in the Professional Development League.
?We?re a very young team,? Watkins said. ?But with having as many returning players as we do, we?re determined to make the playoffs in late July.?
Now that the final roster has been made, practice will begin Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. Next week, the Cougars kick off the season by playing three national teams in Costa Rica.