OGDEN — Women’s soccer in the Big Sky Conference, like other sports in the league, recently shifted from a winner-hosts tournament format to a predetermined bid process. That helps schools (and fans and parents) plan their travel well ahead of time instead of expensively at the last minute.
That bid process resulted in Weber State being chosen in June as the host of the 2018 conference tournament. On the field, the Wildcats had missed the conference tournament two seasons running with a combined league record of 5-11-4.
Led by a handful of seniors, a youth movement and a stingy defense, the Wildcats delivered a host performance anyway, surging to a 7-1-1 conference record to win the Big Sky regular-season title outright.
“It gave us motivation, because you can’t host a tournament and not be in the tournament,” senior forward Madi Garlock said. “Especially because the last couple years have been hard years, so all of it together is satisfying.”
The title brings a first-round bye in the six-team tournament, meaning Weber State can watch and rest on Halloween night at Wildcat Soccer Field before playing a semifinal on Friday, Nov. 2.
But how did that season come together? Head coach Tim Crompton said with any good team, it starts in the offseason.
“Their mindset and approach, and carrying that into the summer, how they worked out in voluntary workouts — it’s a combination of that and some young players who play quality minutes and players who were young that matured, and a lot of great senior leadership,” he said. “You have to have all those things come together.
“And it’s not like they were a poor team last year, they just lost a lot of games by one point.”
Aside from the final two games of the season in which WSU gave up five goals — Crompton said a few key players to the defensive structure were out nursing injuries but are back for the tournament — the Wildcats thrived on defense, allowing one goal per game.
“I think they’re organized, they take pride in it and they’re fundamentally sound. That’s difficult to play against,” Crompton said.
The players communicate well and take pride in each other, too.
“We really love each other and want each other to succeed,” senior defender Shailyn Jenkins said. “So we’re willing to put ourselves in places maybe we wouldn’t have before for that person. We’ll lay out for each other to get a ball if they get beat and we’re willing to cover and make up for other’s mistakes. We just want to succeed back there together.”
Crompton said it was clear even in camp that his team would be difficult to play against.
Jenkins and Garlock are part of a group of core seniors who are battle tested. That group also includes Morgan Quarnberg, the team’s top goal scorer (7) and points leader (16). Garlock, a Davis High alum, has 10 points this season.
There’s a glut of young players, though, and many of those are local to the area. Of the 32 players listed on the team’s roster, 24 hail from Northern Utah.
Freshman midfielder Olivia Barton (Woods Cross High School) has three goals and six assists for a second-best 12 points. Fellow freshman midfielder Taylor Scadlock (Roy) has four goals and 10 points.
Junior keeper Nikki Pittman (Weber) has started all 17 games in goal and played all but 38 minutes of the season there, claiming six shutouts.
“We’ve been blessed to be able to see those local players and watch them as they grew up. There’s plenty of talent here locally,” Crompton said. “We feel like we need to win with that local talent first before we go elsewhere and keep our players to stay here rather than go somewhere else.”
He said it takes a “special personality” for these players to stay close to home, since their successes and failures can be more under the microscope.
Sophomores Kinsley Napoli (Fremont) and Mylee Broad (Weber), senior Chansi Crompton (Fremont), freshman Trinity Kerr (Weber), junior Megan Price (Weber) and sophomore Grace Youngberg (Fremont) have all recorded points this year.
Seniors Quarnberg (Pleasant Grove) and Olivia Glassford (Mountain View), not local to Northern Utah but prep products from the state, anchor the team as offensive and defensive bookends.
The Wildcats play the winner of Northern Arizona and Montana. WSU played NAU to a 0-0 draw early in Big Sky play and beat Montana 2-1, both at home.
Garlock said taking each game one step at a time has been the team’s recipe for success, but there’s no mistaking the ultimate goal playing as the No. 1 seed on home turf.
“Our expectation is that we’re going to win and go to the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully win a couple games there, too,” Chansi Crompton said.
The tournament will be held at Wildcat Soccer Field on Weber State’s campus.
Oct. 31 (Quarterfinals)
Noon — (3) Northern Colorado vs. (6) Eastern Washington
3 p.m. — (4) Northern Arizona vs. (5) Montana
Nov. 2 (Semifinals)
Noon — (2) Idaho vs. 3/6 winner
3 p.m. — (1) Weber State vs. 4/5 winner
Noon — Championship game