In their 2018 season, the University of Utah soccer team achieved an overall record of 9-8-2, and they went 6-4-1 against other Pac-12 teams. These wins earned the Utes fourth place in the conference among their Pac-12 foes.
This was a big year for the Utes, as they turned around the 2017 season, when they were unable to earn any victories in Pac-12 play.
“I just think we were a little too comfortable, and we weren’t as feisty,” said senior Max Flom about the 2017 team. “I think we learned from last season that we can’t rest and we are ready to prove ourselves. We are a young team.”
The team started off the 2018 season on a high note. With an early win against Idaho in August, things were looking up. In their first four games, the Utes walked away with a record of 2-1-1. They outscored their opponents 4-2 and earned victories against both Weber State and Idaho, as well as a tie against UC Irvine.
Entering Pac-12 play, the team was confident in themselves, but the Utes did not take their preseason momentum with them. Utah dropped two games quickly to both Oregon and Arizona.
The team did not let their losses get them down, and the Utes went on a four-game winning streak in the following games. Utah defeated Arizona State, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State. They outscored their opponents 7-0 with each game, resulting in a shutout.
This four-game winning streak was the longest winning streak that the Utes have achieved since 2016. The streak was broken in an 0-2 loss against No. 1 Stanford.
The 2-0 victory over Arizona State was monumental because it was the first time that Utah had ever come out of Tempe with a win.
In their final five conference games, the Utes earned two wins over both UC Berkeley and No. 21 Colorado, two losses and a tie against No. 2 USC.
Against California, the Utes earned their first-ever victory against the Golden Bears. Utah walked out of Berkeley with a 2-1 win. In their season closer, Utah defeated the Buffs for the first time in Boulder with a score of 1-0.
The seniors on the team had the tough job of leading a young team through a challenging season, but they did everything that they were asked to do.
“I want to thank our seniors for their vast contributions to the program. It was a small group of four people that had to lead a young team,” head coach Rich Manning said to Utah Athletics. “They kept pushing their teammates and would not allow them to quit until we got it rolling. These young ladies had a big challenge thrown at them and they were up to the task. What a great legacy they leave!”
One of the seniors was Paola Van der Veen, an international player from the Netherlands. She played with the Utes for four years, and she was a standout player in each of her seasons. For two years, she was nominated to the Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention, and she was a Second-team All-Pac-12 honoree after the 2017 season.
She is the sixth Ute to accomplish this in back-to-back seasons. She also had three game-winning goals, which was the most in the Pac-12.
Senior Hailey Skolmoski carried the team with 11 game-winners, placing her fifth all time for Utah. She also was second on the team with four goals on the season.
In the goal, junior Carly Nelson earned the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week after two shutouts in a row. She earned six shutouts in conference play with eight overall, which was a league record.
Additionally, she led the Pac-12 in saves, with 92. She racked up 21 of those saves in just the last two games of the season.
Junior Ireland Dunn ended her third season with the Utes in second place on the team with 15 points, and she contributed five assists in Pac-12 play, which put her in second place in the conference.
Although they were not selected to participate in the NCAA tournament this upcoming week, the Utes earned the best season finish out of any of the teams that were not selected for tournament play. This is the second time that they have not been selected for the tournament despite a high record, the last time being in 2011.
“Finishing top four in the Pac-12 with historic wins over ASU, Cal and Colorado is a fantastic accomplishment. By the end of the season, we were an excellent team and a force to be dealt with,” said Manning to Utah Athletics. “I know the players want to keep playing, and it is an important lesson that we need to be consistent throughout the season.”