BYU men’s soccer wins sixth straight regional title

BYU men’s soccer won three of its four games at regionals on Oct. 28-29, becoming region champions for the sixth year in a row.

The team started the tournament ranked first in Region VI of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA). The Cougars played Weber State on Oct. 28 and tied 0-0.

Their remaining three games were on Oct. 29. The Cougars started strong in the morning against Montana State, defeating the Bobcats 6-1.

Eric Morris scored goal one in the first half, and the Cougars began the second half tied 1-1.

The tie didn’t last for long, with Alex Fankhauser bringing the score to 2-1. The real star of the show for the Cougars, however, was Brayden Gonder, who achieved his first career hat-trick. Gonder scored four goals in the second half, his fourth goal coming from a penalty kick. His incredible performance ensured a spot for BYU in the semifinals.

The Cougars faced the University of Utah in the semifinals, defeating the Utes 3-0.

Their final game was against the University of Oregon. After the Cougars struggled to pull ahead, Talmage Woodhouse scored the team’s first and only goal against the Ducks, leading the team to a 1-0 victory.

“I think the drive that we had wasn’t just in that game; it was from all this preparation we’ve been having,” junior Isaiah Strong said. “We weren’t ready to just give up our regionals. We tied 0-0 the first game. It was a poor result, so we were fired up in the whole tournament.”

The men credit their ability to adapt quickly to difficult situations and work together as a team in their regional victory.

“The beauty of soccer is that it’s a dynamic game,” senior Ben Gonzalez said. “Every game is different, and recognizing when to adapt and how to execute it is what separates championship teams. A large portion of our success is generated from our collective ability to see where we can create advantages on the pitch against each team and exploit them.”

The athletes are proud to be six-time regional champions, but they aren’t letting their celebrations get in the way of their preparations for the finals.

“Every time we had a game, even if we’d win, our coach would say, ‘That was good, but we need to get better and get ready for regionals and nationals.’ Them instilling that mindset in us was really good,” Strong said.

“One thing I love about our team culture is our desire for continual growth,” Gonzalez said. “We structure our season to be at our peak performance the week of nationals. We had a successful weekend in Oregon for regionals, but we noticed some areas that can be fine-tuned, so we’ll put in every ounce of work necessary over the next few weeks to be the best team we can be starting game one in Texas.”

The men will head to Texas for nationals in mid-November, where they’ll begin their bid for a national title on Nov. 15.

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