Before the No. 20 ranked University of Utah soccer team opens its season next Sunday, the Utes will hit the road to face the Weber State Wildcats in an exhibition match on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 7 p.m.
Although the Utes lost a couple of their top players and leaders last season after finishing 13-4-5, many of the returning players have stepped up to the challenge of taking on a leadership role to help guide the team. The Utes return eight starters and they were able to sign more players for the upcoming 2017 season than they were forced say goodbye to last season. Newcomers like Tatum Thornton, SJ Edwards, Jessica Hixson, LuLu Borges, Demi Lopez, Cameron Tingey and Zona Kinnaman will play a role on this team as well.
The Utes, who made it to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for their first time in program history last season, have been picked to finish fifth this year in the Pac-12 Conference according to a preseason poll put together by the leagues coaches.
The exhibition match will give Utah women’s soccer head coach Rich Manning the chance to play a handful of players, which will help to show him where his team currently stands. It will also provide his players with the opportunity to show what they can bring to the table to help progress the team forward.
“It’s really a game to see where we are at and test ourselves,” Manning said. “It’s really hard to get the game intensity in practice, so this will be a good chance to see the team execute some of those things when the game gets intense and fast and see how everyone does together. I think what we are looking forward to is to see if we can do these things at a game speed and to also see what combination of players will work together.”
Manning said his team is training hard and improving each day. As a coach, he is looking forward to seeing the team tested against this in-state opponent. He said the Utes have “come out of the gates” with a positive attitude and Manning can’t wait to see what his team will be able to accomplish this season.
Working hard to see success is something senior Janie Kearl said the Utes have been doing as they’ve prepared for a new season. Utah has been practicing twice a day, every day in preparation for this match against the Wildcats and their regular season where they’ll be able to showcase what they’ve learned during the offseason on the field.
Kearl believes Weber State is a competitive and physical team. With that in mind, Kearl said Utah will have to be prepared for a physical match, but she wants her team to focus on something she feels is even more important in their first game and for the entire season.
“Something we are working on as a team is taking every game as a new opportunity to show who we are and what we can do,” Kearl said. “We aren’t looking too much into what they do, but looking more into what we are doing and what we can control.”