Out for the kill

The U soccer team (13-5-3) is in Portland, Ore., todaywhere they are plotting amassacre of Buffaloes.At 4:30 p.m. (PST) on thegrass at Portland University’sMenlo Field, the firstround of the NCAA tournamentbegins, and so continuesthe Utes’ post- seasonrun. Standing in their wayare the Colorado Buffaloes(14-5-2), fresh off a semifinalloss in the Big 10 tourney toTexas A&M.Despite the difference inmomentum, the two teamsare surprisingly even.”I think it’s a flip ’emgame,” U head coach RichManning said. “We playedthem earlier, and it was aback and forth game that welost 1-0.”Referencing the earliermatch-up between thesetwo teams is tempting, butmisleading. Both teams areplaying with different rostersand new strategies.”We have two or threeplayers that are out thatplayed in that game, but Iheard they lost two of theirkey players to ACL injuriesduring the conference tournament.”Those rumors were con-firmed by cubuffs.com. Bothteams have to make adjustmentsbecause of their losses.”Ever since we changedour formation to better fitthe defenders that we have, Ithink that we’ve done reallywell,” Tracy Stratton Garnersaid.”We only allowed one goalin the tournament and thatwas on a set piece, so I’mhoping that carries over andwe shut out Colorado.”Garner has moved from hermidfield position to sweeperfor the Utes, and the transitionhas been seamless.Colorado will have to findout how their adjustmentswill settle in on the fly in theNCAA tournament. Freshmanforward Allie Kiddand junior forward KathrynGrandinetti are the starterswho tore their ACLs, w hichwill affect Colorado’s depthconsiderably. Grandinetti isalso the team’s assist leaderwith six, and Kidd has scoredtwice this season.These are not the onlyskilled players on Colorado’sroster, which will posethe most significant offensivethreat the Utes’ haveseen since conference playbegan.”Watching Colorado play,one would be really impressedwith their teamspeed and skill,” Manningsaid.”They move the ballaround very well and veryquickly. They’re also verygood on their corner kicks.They beat us on a cornerkick earlier in the year, sowe’re going to have to workon stopping that aspect oftheir attack.”The Buffaloes, who madetheir first NCAA tournamentappearance last year,suffered a first-round defeatat the hands of BYU. In additionto being motivated bythat loss, Manning expectsthe Buffaloes to be morepoised as well.”Last year was kind ofa surprise year for them,”Manning said. “They wonthe Big 12, and they made theplayoffs, and so they didn’tknow what to expect oncethey got to the playoffs. Thisyear, having gone through itonce before, they’re goingto be a tougher out. They’llhave higher expectationsgoing into the game on F riday.”The winner of this gameplays the winner of the WeberState (8-9-2) vs. No. 5Portland (17-3-0) game. BothManning and Colorado headcoach Bill Hempen have con -ceded the match to Portland,and are preparing for a second-round matchup againstthe WCC juggernaut.Neither coach is lookingpast his first-round matchup,however. Hempen isbusy preparing his team forUtah’s new defense, whileManning has been givinghis players the week to restup from their MWC tournamentrun.”Having to play threegames in four days with thatkind of intensity was reallydifficult on the players,”Manning said.”We’ve spent the betterpart of this week just gettingour legs back. I’d loveto work them a little bit butwe’re still recovering, especiallythe girls who playeda lot of minutes. We haveto get them ready becausewe could have two gamesthis weekend. We have togo into this weekend withfresh legs and give ourselvesa chance.”Without fresh legs, theUtes will probably get runinto the ground, but if thefive days of rest have paidoff, the Buffaloes could bethe targets of another [email protected]