The UH-Hilo men’s soccer team went in as the underdog against No. 24 Western Washington, which had huge advantages in its favor.
The Vikings were at home and coming off a road loss to Azusa Pacific that knocked them down 11 spots from the national rankings.
Western Washington played with a chip on its shoulder, but the Vulcans hung tough and pulled off a 1-0 upset on Tuesday at Bellingham, Wash., in second-time coach Paul Regrutto’s debut.
“This is a good indicator that we are trying to do the right things,” Regrutto said in a school release. “The guys have bought in to what we have been trying to do. They worked really hard tonight.
“WWU is a good team, they are going to win a lot of matches this year.”
Regrutto was UHH’s first coach in 2006, and his return led to a display of resilience against the Vikings, who played aggressively and outshot the Vuls 19-1 in the first half.
“Having not played yet this year, the first ten minutes we had deer in the headlights,” Regrutto said. “We had the luxury of knowing them (from film) and they knew nothing about us. They struggled to find a way to break us down.”
Nearly 20 minutes into the second half, UHH surged into Western Washington territory, the ball rolled into the penalty box, and Matt Wilkinson scored off Alen Acosta’s assist, a dribble from the left and center cross.
Then the Vulcans had 30 minutes left to play shutout defense against the hard-charging Vikings, who changed their tempo from the first half.
UHH goalie Nick Willams had five saves for the shutout. His backline featured defenders Jack Stonehouse and Xahil McDonald.
“We made a lot of game saving tackles,” Regrutto said.
In the opening 45 minutes, Western Washington (3-2) kept playing the ball back, hoping to frustrate the Vulcans (1-0) and create an opening.
But after UHH’s score, the Vikings, who were picked to finish fourth in the GNAC, relentlessly stormed down the field looking for shots.
Each one came up empty, and the shot ledger was decidedly lopsided. WWU took 29 shots, compared to UHH’s 3.
But only one shot mattered — Wilkinson’s game-winner.
“I don’t think I have ever been a part of a match where a team was outshot 29-3 and still won,” Regrutto said. “Maybe 15-4, but 29-3 is pretty crazy.”
UHH plays at Saint Martin’s (1-4) on Thursday and at Seattle Pacific (1-3) on Saturday.
“We still have so much to improve on,” Regrutto said. “Our next test will to see if we can recover physically and be ready for St. Martin’s on Thursday.”