Signing Day: The future has arrived for Utah Valley

Head coach Greg Maas works with players already on campus at Utah Valley University. Coupled with incoming freshmen, which signed Wednesday, UVU will field an NCAA Division I team in the fall. [Photo courtesy Utah Valley athletics]

Head coach Greg Maas works with players already on campus at Utah Valley University. Coupled with incoming freshmen, which signed Wednesday, UVU will field an NCAA Division I team in the fall. [Photo courtesy Utah Valley athletics]

Karson Payton is a 22-year-old freshman who’s married and his wife is expecting their first child. Matt Gay is a former US Soccer Residency participant who entertained going to college as a football placekicker. Lucas Cawley, an actual high school senior, is a national recruit who’s opting to stay close to home. Then there’s Thomas Loomis, a 22-year-old sophomore and one of four Utah natives transferring back to his home state for college soccer.

The national signing period for NCAA Division I and Division II men’s soccer starts today, and nowhere is there such a unique — and large — recruiting class as the crop of players that are either already enrolled or coming into Utah Valley University to help launch the program’s first NCAA Division I men’s soccer team this fall.

Recent commitment additions | NCAA Div. I commits | NCAA Div. II commits | Confirmed signings

Head coach Greg Maas and associate coach Matt Ellinger have assembled a group that might number 30 players when all is finished. In addition to the above, the incoming class features players from 11 states, and it includes a pickup from an East Coast school that recently dropped men’s soccer, transfers from junior colleges and other NCAA programs, players from the Development Academy, as well as US Youth Soccer Region IV ODP participants. There’s even a chance a pair of brothers will suit up for UVU’s inaugural team.

When Utah Valley takes to the field for the first time Aug. 30 at home against UMass, the roster may look like this: 14 freshmen, eight redshirt freshmen, six sophomores and two juniors.

And Maas couldn’t be more excited.

Part of the projected inaugural UVU team has been on campus this school year and able to practice. [Photo courtesy Utah Valley athletics]

Part of the projected inaugural UVU team has been on campus this school year and able to practice. [Photo courtesy Utah Valley athletics]

“We look young if you just look at the year in school, but we’re not,” Maas said. “We’ve got 21-, 22-year-old sophomores. We have older players for that give us some of that physical and mental maturity, the locker room maturity we will need. Look at Thomas Loomis (formerly at Cal State Fullerton) … he’s a man.”

After Utah Valley University decided to form a men’s soccer program, it hired Maas as head coach 17 months before the team would make its NCAA debut. Such a move allowed Maas to enter the recruiting cycle at the appropriate time — IDing and pursuing potential recruits during their junior year in high school.

“Credit goes to our administration at Utah Valley University to have the foresight to start the program a year in advance gave us necessary time to build a program correctly,” Maas said.

In addition, the extra time gave Maas, a former Utah Youth Soccer Association technical director, head coach of Real Salt Lake Utah U17s and a long-time Region 4 ODP coach, a chance to work his connections and reach out to players who were considering a transfer or simply seeking a new opportunity.

Maas sold them all on the opportunity of a lifetime — a chance to build something from scratch and create their own legacy.

“What I wanted to do with a program as unique as the one we have here — and the opportunity we have — is to engage this Mountain West region, Maas said. “I really went after the best kid I thought would fit our program in Idaho, in Washington, in Oregon, in Montana, in Wyoming, in Nevada, in Cal South, and in Cal North, as well as the best of the players we have here in Utah.”

Another soccer selling point that Maas stressed is the potential relationship with Real Salt Lake, which is starting a PDL team in the area next season. Maas said recent rule changes could allow college players/amateurs to train alongside professional players, which will be in place between RSL and UVU.

“It helps (RSL) ID players and it helps them with numbers when they are working with the reserve team, and it helps us having our players on the field with professionals,” he said. “It gives us a unique relationship that many college programs really don’t have available to them.”

Maas expects UVU to be highly competitive right away as members of the Western Athletic Conference, where only two conference teams had winning records last fall.

“We have some players coming in with fantastic playing backgrounds, experiences and accolades, and the best part about it — somewhere down the line where it was four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, or last year — they all know each other. They’ve connected. … There’s already a relationship built and that should help us as a brand new program to get moving forward quickly.”

CLICK HERE FOR A DETAILED UTAH VALLEY ROSTER

Updated: February 5, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>