The sprinklers are on. The mowers are running. The Gatorade is out. The goal lines are drawn. You can stop waiting, for the time has come — Utah sports are in the air.
The University of Utah’s women’s soccer team had the pleasure of kicking off the year of sports with an exhibition matchup with the Vandals out of the University of Idaho. The game was full of excitement, first-game jitters and missed opportunities, but the Utes dominated the Vandals for the majority of the game and won their first match of the year, 1-0.
The jubilation at the starting of a new season was palpable as both teams warmed up before the match. One of the Utes’ strong suits for this season will be their fitness and conditioning achieved through the offseason, which was evident as they sprinted up and down the pitch for a majority of the game. Coach Rich Manning’s focus in recruitment was to pick up speedy players, who could run down loose balls faster than their opponents. Recruiting freshmen Makayla Christensen and Brooklyn James, two notoriously speedy forwards in their high school careers, helped the Utes dictate the pace of play.
Coming into this game, the Vandals were getting a new look at head coach Jeremy Clevenger, who was hired less than a month before the match. According to Idaho Athletic Director Pete Isakson, “Jeremy is a proven winner and a great fit to not only maintain the championship-caliber program that has been built here, but to take it to the next level.” With over ten years of coaching in collegiate level soccer, Clevenger had only four weeks to prepare a Vandal team for a tough 2018 schedule.
The game was a largely one-sided affair, with Utah dominating play for most of the first half, and all of the second half. Utah Goalkeeper SJ Edwards, who came in at the half, only faced one shot in the second half. Meanwhile, the Utes racked up 12 more shots in the second half, bringing the total to 23 on the day. Only nine of the 23 shots taken made it on goal, which is a level of inaccuracy that Manning attributed to first-game excitement in his halftime interview.
The Vandals would only register six shots on the day, which is an homage to Utah’s stout defense and solid goaltending, punctuated by junior Carly Nelson’s starting role as goaltender. The Utes also got good looks at incoming players and freshmen players, giving them playing time later in the game.
The lone goal of the game came in the 26th minute. With a beautiful touch, senior Paola Van Der Veen, who found herself on a breakaway after a pass from Hailey Skolmoski and Haylee Cacciacarne, floated in a beautiful shot for the first goal of the season for the Utes. With stellar defense and dominant goalkeeping, the Utes closed it out to seal the first victory of the season for the University of Utah.
Women’s Soccer debuts in regular season play against the Gophers, out of the University of Minnesota, on August 17th.