U soccer stuns BYU for MWC title

By and

The U soccer team clinched its first outright MWC championship on Saturday night with a 1-0 overtime victory over BYU in Provo.

Freshman Amanda Feigt scored the game’s only goal in the 95th minute off a cross by junior Lauren Field.

“I thought it was going over (the crossbar),” Feigt said. “I’m so happy it went in.”

Although it was Feigt’s opportunism that officially won the game, it was Field who created the chance.

“Lauren made a great run to get the play going,” coach Rich Manning said. “Then she made a terrific cross that the goalie deflected right to Amanda.”

Utah also won the MWC title in 1999, but it was shared with BYU. Coincidentally, a BYU victory could have ensured the same result, but the loss prevented the Cougars from an MWC title for the first time in the conference’s four-year history.

The Utes finished their regular season with record of 15-2 and a conference record of 6-0. Both marks are the best in the nine-year history of the program. BYU finished its season at 12-5-2 and 4-2 in the MWC, leaving the Cougars in second place.

The game was a stalemate for the first 90 minutes of play, thanks in large part to the two opposing goaltenders. Ute freshman goalkeeper Ashley Mason made six saves en route to her fifth complete game shutout of the season, while Ashley Smith of BYU made three saves in regulation before surrendering the game’s only goal.

The Utes pulled out the victory despite being outshot for only the second time all season.

“There’s no question it was a defensive battle,” Manning said. “Our backs played very well, particularly Michelle [Deatherage] and Melissa [Wayman].”

The success of these freshman defenders comes as no surprise to Ute fans, who have seen the two perform well all season.

The win solidifies Utah’s position as the top team in the conference-and one of the best in the nation. Ute fans seemed to have taken note of this prior to Saturday night’s game, as many of them packed Provo’s South Stadium on Saturday night.

“I don’t know what the attendance was, but we probably had just as many fans there as BYU did,” Manning said.

The official attendance was listed at 2,019, which is impressive given the inclement weather and poor driving conditions.

Having achieved their predominant preseason goal of winning the conference, the Utes now look ahead to the MWC tournament, which will be held at Ute Field from Wednesday to Saturday.

Because of last Saturday’s win, the Utes will receive a first-round bye in the tournament, and as a result will not have to play until Thursday at 2 p.m. The Utes will certainly be the favorites to win the tournament because of the bye and home-field advantage.

“It’s a new position for a lot of players on our team, going into this tournament as the favorite,” Manning said. “We have a target on our back now.”

The Utes look to end BYU’s streak of four-straight MWC tournament championships, and they will probably have to beat them to do it. BYU begins tournament play on Wednesday against Air Force, a team that has lost 10 games this year, including a 4-0 loss to the Cougars.

“BYU, in my mind, has been the top program in the Rocky Mountain region for several years now,” Manning said. “But there are a lot of good programs in this conference.”

The winner of the MWC tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Although Utah would likely receive an at large bid if it doesn’t win the tournament, Manning realizes “you never like to leave it up to somebody else.”

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