U soccer putting together best season in history

By and

For those who haven’t been following the U soccer team this year, here’s what you should know: The Utes (14-2, 4-0) are currently ranked in the top 20 in all four major polls, with two No. 14 rankings, a No. 17 and a No. 18.

The NSCAA is considered the official poll, and it currently has the Utes at No. 17, which is the highest ranking in school history.

They have earned these rankings by beating both No. 17 Michigan and No. 2 Florida, by going undefeated in their first five conference games and by having the nation’s fifth-best win-loss-tie percentage, among other things.

MWC Player of the Week

Freshman Amanda Feigt was named MWC Offensive Player of the Week for her performance against Wyoming.

“She had a great game.” coach Rich Manning said. “You’re always happy when your players get rewarded for a good performance.”

Feigt was also happy with the award, but was quick to deflect the praise.

“I’m really excited about the award,” she said. “It wasn’t just me who earned it, it was the whole team, and if one person on the team gets rewarded, everyone gets rewarded.”

The award was her first, but don’t expect it to be her last. Feigt has been one of the most potent threats on the Ute squad this year and has gotten better with each game.

“I’ve improved so much this year, she said. “I came in as a scared freshman, but I’ve developed my game and I’m starting to play well again.”

Defense wins championships…

A big reason for the team’s success this year has been the defense, which is No. 10 in the country in average goals allowed per game (.556). This can be attributed to the outstanding play of the defenders and goalkeepers.

Freshman Ashley Mason has the sixth-best goals against average in the country (.456), and the best in the MWC.

Since college rules will only allow one goalkeeper per team to be ranked at a time, freshman Kaycie Zimmerman’s name has disappeared from the MWC rankings. However, just last week, she had the best goals against average in the conference and was ranked sixth in saves.

There really isn’t a statistic that can describe how well the defenders have played. But if you consider that Utah has the most shutouts in the MWC (9), but has the second-lowest saves per game average (3.56), then it stands to reason that somebody is helping the goalies keep the ball out of the net.

…but offense doesn’t hurt

The Utes have featured a very balanced offensive attack this season, as 11 different Utes have scored. Leading the team and the conference in goals scored is senior Amber Brower with eight, while junior Lauren Field is second on the team and third in the conference with seven.

The leading passer on the team is Feigt with eight assists, which is good enough for second in the conference. Missy Dennis is second on the team with seven assists.

As a team, the Utes are second in every major offensive category behind BYU, who they face this Saturday in Provo.

A lot to think about

Not only are the Utes preparing for their biggest game of the season, they are also getting ready to host the MWC tournament next week. There will be a total of seven teams here, and the games will span four days. Play begins Wednesday, continues on Thursday and the championship game is scheduled for Saturday. The tournament winner receives an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

The day before the tournament begins, all seven teams will convene for the MWC banquet, where all of the league awards will be handed out. Utah should have more than a few players honored, given the success the team has enjoyed this season.

One would think that this would give the teams an opportunity to mingle and converse with one another, but senior Jen Williams recalls an entirely different experience.

“The whole spirit of the tournament is complete competition,” Williams said. “In the past, we’ve stayed at the same hotel as other teams, and you see players staring each other down in the lobby and in the hallways. It’s war.”

The Big Game

The Utes can earn a first round bye in the MWC tournament by defeating BYU on Saturday. If they lose, the Cougars will get the bye and gain an advantage in a tournament they have never lost.

Utah could also end BYU’s streak of regular-season conference championships, which has been intact since the MWC was founded four years ago.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday at South Field in Provo.

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