The BYU men’s soccer team is riding on a 22-game winning streak as they prepare for games against in-state rivals Utah State and Utah Valley on Sept. 21 and Sept. 22, respectively.
This comes after their two wins against Utah and Weber State on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, respectively, keeping them undefeated since entering collegiate club soccer.
The Cougars defeated Utah by a final score of 6-1 on their home field on Sept. 14. Senior forward Ace Phillips scored two goals, with additional goals from midfielders Christian Bain, Seth Fankhauser, Ben Jenson, and forward Tanner Whitworth.
“We got a couple good counter-attack goals early on where we were pressuring, and we ended up winning the ball, playing it in and scoring,” Phillips said. “I think that was key in getting those early leads.”
Much of the team is made up of core returning players who know how to play well together, according to Head Coach Brandon Gilliam. Aware of each other on the field, they controlled the ball and pulled back when needed.
Gilliam said he was proud of the way the Cougars played on defense and used that to build their attack.
“Stepping into this year, we haven’t had any issue with having to build a core foundation on the field,” Gilliam said. “The nice part about this year is we’ve had two games after one week of practice and (the team) look(s) better than they did last year after four months off.”
Despite a near cancellation due to air quality in the valley, BYU fans came out and supported the team. Filling the stands, there was a sea of white and blue.
“It was an active environment,” BYU junior Alyssa Gunnell said. “A lot of cheering and good sportsmanship reactions.”
The commitment of the fans and their dedication to the team helped pump up the team and get them riled up, according to Phillips.
“Fans are everything,” Phillips said. “We appreciate all of them coming out. It just really helps the atmosphere and helps us play a lot better when they’re there.”
Their second game came against Weber State had its own ups and downs, but the Cougars pulled through with the win (5-0). Bain and forward Jake Ence scored two goals within the first 10 minutes, causing Weber to build up their defense and make it more difficult to break down.
After a tough 70 minutes, BYU added an additional three goals in the last 10 minutes by Phillips, defender Skylar Ulicny, and Fankhauser.
“Weber did really well to kind of sit back and make it very hard to break down, but we ended up scoring a few more there at the last ten,” Gilliam said.
On Sept. 21, the team will travel to Logan to face the Utah State Aggies. The only tie the Cougars had last season was against the Aggies.
“We’re going to have to be patient, like we were against Weber and make sure that we’re balanced in the back with numbers behind the ball,” Gilliam said.
The team will then return home to South Field on Sept. 22 to host UVU.