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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U soccer headed to Sin City to face Rebels

The U soccer team (11-2) heads west this weekend as conference play continues in the Mountain West Conference.

The first stop is tonight in Las Vegas, where the Running Rebels of UNLV (6-6-2) will attempt to knock off the No. 19 team in the country. The Utes had slipped from the rankings after their loss to Sacramento State, but were voted back into the NSCAA poll this week after two impressive conference victories.

The two wins last week also kept Utah’s season long goal, to go undefeated in conference play, intact.

UNLV, a team that lost its only conference game to Wyoming on the road last week, will certainly be fired up for the Utes, who have beaten them four times in five games.

“Their loss last week was a big surprise, so I’m sure they’re going to be fired up to try and make amends,” U coach Rich Manning said.

The Rebels also have one of the MWC’s most explosive players in junior forward Annii Magliulo. She is the conference leader in shots (43), is tied for the lead in goals (7) and tied for second in points (16).

Of course, the players she is tied with are both Utes. Lauren Field has matched her goal-for-goal despite playing in three fewer games, and Amber Brower is her equal in points.

The Utes counter the Rebels’ scoring threat with the stingiest defense in the conference, which has allowed only eight goals in thirteen games. This is due in large part to the defensive backfield, which was considered a question mark at the beginning of the season.

“I’m very proud of the defense because we got off to a shaky start in the back this year,” Manning said. “Our cohesiveness and continuity on defense has been a real strength for us even though we’ve used so many different players.”

The goalkeeping for the Utes also appeared to be a team weakness before play began. However, both freshmen-Kaycie Zimmerman and Ashley Mason-have adjusted nicely to the college level, and are among the elite goalies in the MWC.

After logging two-straight shutouts, Zimmerman is the No. 1 goalkeeper in the conference, allowing 0.72 goals per game.

Freshman keeper Ashley Mason actually has a lower goals against average at 0.46 goals per game, but a recent shoulder injury has kept her from accumulating enough minutes to qualify. Mason is listed as day-to-day for the road trip, and is expected to play.

Coach Manning is also concerned with UNLV’s defense, which he considers to be as good as New Mexico’s.

The Lobos held the Utes scoreless through regulation last week, so that is saying a lot.

“If the goalie is hot and is on her game, we’ll have a tough time scoring,” Manning said.

Rebel goalkeeper Jenna Huff has allowed only 14 goals in 12 games, and she is one of the tallest keepers in the conference at six feet tall. This all but neutralizes the Utah height advantage on corner kicks, which have been one of Utah’s biggest scoring threats all season.

The Utes are bringing the MWC’s second-highest scoring offense to Vegas, averaging an even two goals per game.

The Utes won’t be tempted in Sin City for long though, as they depart for San Diego directly after the game against UNLV to face the Aztecs and complete the road trip.

“Two years ago, the team made the trip to Vegas and San Diego, and lost both games,” Manning said. “So our juniors and seniors are eager for revenge.”

Sounds like two interesting games are in the making.

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