Rebels Jones-ing for a new season after U soccer ousts them from tourney

PROVO, Utah-With less than 10 minutes remaining in a scoreless MWC tournament semifinal match, U freshman midfielder Kiley Jones blasted a loose ball past UNLV goalkeeper Jenna Huff from 30 yards out for the game winner.

“Kiley’s goal was a world-class goal,” U head coach Rich Manning said. “She’s played so well for us this year, doing a lot of the dirty work. It’s nice to see those lunch pailers get some glory.”

Jones’ first goal of the season turned out to be the one that sent the Utes to their second straight MWC tournament championship game. Sophomore forward Amanda Feigt added a breakaway goal with just more than a minute to play, giving the Utes some insurance en route to a 2-0 victory.

The Rebels were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and received a first round bye for their regular season MWC dominance. However, they were unable to capitalize on their extra rest, and eventually succumbed to a Ute team playing the day after it beat Wyoming.

“Part of the reason UNLV was better than us in the first half is because it was their first game of the tournament and they were fresh,” Manning said. “But even though we weren’t playing well, we kept ourselves in the game.”

UNLV’s fresh legs were apparent in the first half but never paid dividends. They controlled the ball well and set up several scoring opportunities, only to see them foiled by the Ute defense lead by goalkeeper Ashley Mason.

The Rebel’s best first half chance came off the foot of Jessica Destito, who nailed a shot toward the left post, but Mason was there to make a diving save.

“I don’t know what was going through my mind,” Mason said. “I felt like a cat. It was a feeling I’ve never had before, I just saw the ball and pounced on it.”

The cat-like Mason was tested only once more during the remainder of the game, and she was up to the task. With 17 minutes remaining in the second half, MWC Offensive Player of the Year Annii Magliulo hit a toe poke along the ground from 15 yards out toward the left post, but Mason was there once again to pounce on the ball and send the Utes back on the attack with an enormous punt.

“I just reacted to it,” Mason said. “I think that was a deciding moment in the game because it was still scoreless and if that went in they would have had the momentum.”

Despite a sluggish first half, the Utes carried the momentum in the second half, thanks in part to a half-time pep talk by Manning.

“At half time I told the girls this could be their last half of the season, and they really responded with inspired play in the second half,” Manning said.

The Utes took five of their six shots in the second half, and managed to get two past first team all-conference goalkeeper Jenna Huff.

“Jenna Huff is a terrific goalie,” Manning said. “It takes a goal like [Jones’] to beat her. The save she made on Lauren Field was… amazing.”

Midway through the second half, senior forward Lauren Field got behind the Rebel defense and took a shot from point-blank range that Huff was able to make a diving stop on.

Unfortunately for the Rebels, she had no chance on Jones’ blast, and had no defensive help on Feigt’s late breakaway.

The game was essentially even for 80 minutes, with both teams playing great defense. For a while it looked like the game would end in penalty kicks, just as it did in 2003 when the two teams met in the tournament semifinals.

“UNLV is a terrific team,” Manning said. “They’ve improved a lot since the last time we played them. I was really impressed with their speed on offense and defense.”

The last time the two teams played, UNLV won on a goal that even UNLV admits was cheap. This certainly motivated the Utes to play a better game on Thursday to get their revenge.

“I didn’t want to call it revenge [yesterday] because I didn’t want to eat my words,” Mason said. “But hey, we got our revenge.”

The Utes will face San Diego State on Saturday in Provo at 11 a.m. for the MWC title and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

The Utes played the Aztecs to a scoreless tie in Salt Lake City on Oct. 9. but they were not the same squad that has been playing in the MWC tourney. The Utes dominated the game offensively, but were unable to score. They hope to correct that problem by playing with a different style this time around.

“On Saturday, we’re gonna come out and play Utah style,” Mason said, or in other words “Gnarly style.”

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