Fall break has come and gone for the University of Utah, but that didn’t stop the Utah soccer team from continuing to play its season as it tried to earn its first Pac-12 win of the year.
To start fall break, the Utes faced California on Sunday, Oct. 8, but after two early goals were scored on them, they dropped the match, 2-0. The Utes couldn’t make up for the loss when they faced UCLA that Thursday. They dropped yet another Pac-12 contest, this time by a score of 2-1.
Head coach Rich Manning said he and his team were disappointed with the results of the matches during the break because he believes Utah played solid games, but simply couldn’t get any points out of them. When the Utes face strong, ranked teams like Cal and UCLA, they need to be mistake free and play at a high level, according to Manning. Although the Utes lacked aggressiveness, Manning saw positive contributions made on the field.
“We fell behind [against Cal], and I thought we played a really good second half, maybe one of our best of the year,” Manning said. “Cal’s goalie made nine saves, the most she has had to make all year. She made two really great saves, and she was the Pac-12 goalie of the week based on that performance, but I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Manning thought the Utes brought their competitive ‘A’ game, however, one or two plays made the difference between a win or a loss for them. That stung him and his team, but he feels Utah has grown over the last two games and that it is ready to put in a solid performance against its next opponent.
The Utes are preparing for a home matchup against Arizona on Thursday, Oct. 19, and Manning knows Utah needs to take care of business.
“We always talk about every Pac-12 game is like a heavyweight bout,” Manning said. “We are going to go toe-to-toe and we will have to bring it. I’ve been impressed with Arizona’s competitive spirit, staying in games and fighting hard, but I’ve also been impressed with ours the last few games. I think it is going to be a real battle. Both teams have stingy defenses and someone is going to have to bring someone down.”
Although the Utes are still looking for a conference victory, Manning said his team’s goals that it wants to accomplish this season are still in reach. Manning believes it still has a chance to turn its season around and finish strong in the Pac-12 standings, as well as have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Junior Paola Van der Veen said she is ready to hit the field for Thursday’s game, and while she knows it is a challenge for her team to keep its spirits high while on a five-game losing streak, she knows Utah can overcome the obstacle.
“We have a very good team this year,” Van der Veen said. “It’s going to be our first win and I think Thursday is the day, and we are going to keep winning hopefully, keep playing how we want to play, keep putting in the effort so we keep continuing to grow and hopefully make it to the NCAA tournament. That’s our goal.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.