BYU men’s soccer sweeps day one of nationals
BYU men’s soccer defeated Florida and Arizona State at their first day of nationals on Nov. 16 in Round Rock, Texas, advancing to the next round of the NIRSA Championship Series.
After two and a half weeks of practice between regionals and finals, the men were prepared to take each opposing team by storm.
“We focused a lot on a variety of things, including trying to score in different ways from different parts on the field and adapting to new teams and situations quickly,” sophomore Aaron Jolley said. “This definitely helped us playing against two totally different teams and situations and being able to get wins in both and score goals in different ways.”
“The first week, we really worked on our intensity in the 18s (18-yard penalty box), so the defensive 18 and the offensive 18, and making sure that we’re taking care of the ball in the back so we’re not losing it,” sophomore goalkeeper Chris Jenkinson said. “The second week, we invited back a lot of players that made it to the final cut of tryouts. They came out and scrimmaged with us and allowed us to try out different formations and play against different players than we’re used to, and it really helped us prepare.”
Their first game against Florida ended 1-0, with Jolley breaking the 0-0 tie in the first half.
“It came from a good buildup by our offense and a good pass into the box,” Jolley said. “I kind of got lucky with the ball falling to my feet behind the defense after a deflection off of the opposing team defender, but I was able to place the ball past the keeper into the back of the net.”
Against Arizona State, the men scored two goals, one in the first half by freshman Ammon Oyler and the other in the second half by sophomore Brayden Gonder.
Juniors and center-backs Cameron Pennock and Isaiah Strong didn’t play against the Sun Devils, so the team was forced to shift formations slightly.
“We had to change up our formation a little bit, and that just allowed us to utilize the players that we do have and keep that rotation going so we’re ready for four more games in the coming days,” Jenkinson said.
Both wins were closer than the team is typically used to, but the players didn’t let up defensively, keeping both opposing teams at zero goals.
“Our defense is always solid, and we know that teams will rarely be able to break us down in normal play, so we made sure to keep numbers back defensively and were able to get those two shutouts,” Jolley said.
“A goalkeeper is only as good as his defensive line, so big shoutout to my team for finishing and for defending really well,” Jenkinson said. “We are looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
While the men know they will be up against difficult teams in the upcoming rounds, they’re confident they can continue their winning streak by breaking through the opposing defense.
“We know in this tournament that a lot of teams are going to play more defensive against us,” Jenkinson said. “They want to tie us. They want to limit us to zero goals. They’re going to play more defensive, more conservative, rather than trying to score a bunch of goals themselves, so it’s going to be harder for us to score. We’re really just trying to put that to the test and make sure that we’re not leaving any games with a zero on our side.”
Check the team’s Instagram page for live tournament updates.