BYU men’s soccer beat Cal Poly 4-1 to win its first collegiate club national championship since 2001.
Forward Tanner Whitworth scored two goals in the final match while Christian Bain and Cameron McLaughlin also found the back of the net in the final.
“The most rewarding part is our best performance was in our last game,” said coach Brandon Gilliam. “After a long season and a very long tournament, the players put it all out there in a wonderful final performance.”
The Cougars beat their opponents by an average of 2.5 goals at the national tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.
The last time the Cougars made it to the final was 2002 during their last season before transitioning over to the semiprofessional PDL for 15 years.
The last time they won the championship, however, was the year before, in 2001. They were national champions six out of their eight years previous to that as well, dating back to 1993.
After transitioning back to the collegiate club level this season, the team knew it would be a drop in the quality of competition, and made the national title its goal from the beginning.
“We set out to achieve a national championship,” Gilliam said. “We understood we had the quality, but it was going to have to be earned.”
Though the Cougars never lost a match this season, there were times when they struggled to find their identity and set themselves apart from the competition.
The team hit their stride at the end of the regular season and averaged nearly four goals a game in the postseason.
“We settled in really well and just really controlled everything,” said goalkeeper Austin Bagley of the final match. “It feels great — (I’m) happy we won.”
The team has been playing nonstop since beginning its PDL season in May with some players going to Taiwan for the World University Games.
The long schedule made physical stress and fatigue a big concern for the staff.
“We had some of the best care for our bodies out of anyone,” Whitworth said. “Deniece, our trainer, is very knowledgeable and worked hard to keep us rested and prepared.”
Whitworth was this year’s leading goalscorer and was named tournament MVP after the championship game.
“There are many guys on the team who played their hearts out and did extremely well,” Whitworth said, redirecting any praise or recognition toward his teammates.
The team will now take its first break in over six months before preparing to defend its title next fall.