As the Utah soccer team prepared for postseason last week, the team could not help but look back on their season and all they accomplished. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the team has not played a season where they only lost one game. During the 2016 season, the Utes either took home a victory or brought games to a draw, seeing their one and only defeat of the season to Stanford, 0-2.
For head coach Rich Manning, it is hard to compare the seasons, but he can’t deny that this season has been nothing but historic.
“It is definitely a fantastic season,” Manning said. “One of the best ways to look at it or the stat that pops out the most to me is that we lost one game out of 11. That’s pretty amazing and to me, that says a lot. That definitely makes it a top season that we hope to build on.”
Manning said this season will always be remembered by the players and the coaches, and it inspires them to keep going and build off of this performance. Manning’s favorite parts of season was seeing his players improve — they were never satisifed with just being “good.” Whenever they needed to take that next step, the team pushed itself in order to do so, according to Manning.
As for freshman Tavia Leachman, she feels her team has performed exceptionally well this season, adding that the performances have been steady and consistent throughout the conference. For her, it makes her freshman year that much more memorable.
In her first season, all that Leachman could say was how amazing it has been for her.
“It is an amazing way to start off my college career, and I couldn’t be anymore proud,” Leachman said. “Without the team and the coaches, nothing would be possible and as a whole unit, we have just been amazing. I think that is a really cool experience to have when you first start off in college.”
With all that the team has accomplished this season, Manning feels that a season highlight has yet to come. But something that stands out most for him is seeing mutiple players step up and play great soccer. To see the team put in teamwork together in order to get better makes Manning proud.
As far as game favorites go, Manning said that his favorite is the “next one.”
“Whatever the next one is,” Manning said. “This season, I could pick out a lot of them. There have been a lot of really good performances, and a lot of games in which you can look back and see the team did really well, and had a lot of fun. I don’t think I have [only] one.”
That doesn’t stop Leachman from picking her favorite. For her, the season highlight, and her favorite game, was against the UCLA Bruins.
After senior Katie Rogers scored early against UCLA, giving the Utes a 1-0 lead, sophomore Hailey Skolmoski secured the victory by scoring another goal, bringing the final score to 2-0. This marked the Utes first victory against a top-25 ranked team since their victory over Oregon State when the team first joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
“For me, being a defender and getting a shutout is wonderful,” Leachman said. “Being able to get a shutout that game and just watching us put two amazing goals in the net was incredible. And any home game is great — being able to see the fans and them supporting us is great.”
Getting results against big name teams, like UCLA, is something that gave Leachman and her team the confidence they needed to continue on in the season, and it gives them the confidence they need to continue on in postseason. Being able to beat a nationally ranked team, not only in a shutout, but by two goals will always be the biggest moment in Leachman’s freshman year.
“If we focus on ourselves, we know that we are good enough,” Leachman said. “And if we can do that, we can go out there and win those games.”