Off they go, into the wild blue yonder: Utes send Air Force packing 3-0

The No. 22 Utes (14-5-1) kicked off the 2005 Mountain West Conference Tournament in fine style, annihilating the Air Force Academy 3-0 on 15 shots to the Falcons’ two. They move on to face New Mexico today at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals at UNLV.

“(Air Force) played hard and chased us around,” said Ute head coach Rich Manning, “We just played really well. We worked for it.”

Air Force coach Marty Buckley couldn’t find fault with his team.

“Even though we lost,” Buckley said, “it’s one of the better games we’ve played all year.”

Katy Reineke put the Utes on the board first in the 26th minute with her third goal of the season.

As Air Force flanked the threatening Ute forwards with a man defensive scheme, defender Melissa Crespo played it forward to a tightly covered Adele Letro.

Letro slipped it to Reineke, whose well-timed run allowed her to sneak past the defense and drive it around the inside of the lower left post from 13 yards out.

“It was a really nice combination,” Manning said. “We’re working really well together right now.”

Letro was credited with her second assist of the game in the 69th minute after she back-heeled a Kim Lloyd cross from the left wing off Air Force keeper Erin Wallace. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Sanchez pounced on the loose ball for her first goal of the 2005 season.

“It’s awesome for her to get credit for all her hard work all season,” Lloyd said.

Sanchez was happy with the rare taste of glory.

“Playing in the midfield, you don’t get many chances,” Sanchez said. “Obviously it’s great to get on the score sheet.”

Lloyd put the game out of reach in the 76th minute on a heady play. Knowing that Air Force was playing her tough off the dribble, Lloyd tried to penetrate on the left side of the field and was able to draw a foul at one of her favorite spots.

“I’d been practicing shots from that area all week, and I thought I could get the foul for sure,” Lloyd said. The Utes then employed a little trickery to make things even tougher on the scrambling Falcon defense.

“They were very concerned about Melissa Wayman, since we’d tried to set her up on previous free kicks,” Manning said.

As Air Force draped Wayman in the box, Reineke ran over the ball to get the Falcons moving one direction before Lloyd blasted the ball through an opening and into the top right corner of the net.

The goal was Lloyd’s first since Sept. 4 against Idaho, marking the end of a frustrating slump for the former second-team All Mountain West performer.

“It was great to get that goal,” Lloyd said.

Manning said he thinks it might be just the thing to get Lloyd going.

“She’s played pretty well,” Manning said. “They just haven’t been going in for her. I think her confidence will grow as a result.”

Keeper Ashley Mason was only called upon to stop two shots for her eighth clean sheet of the year, as the U’s midfield rarely allowed the Falcons onto the Ute half of the pitch.

“The midfield played great,” Manning said. “Kiley Jones was terrific at the holding midfield spot, getting the ball all the time and just generally conducting play out there.”

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