It’s raining ‘Dogs and Buffs at Ute field

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

After picking up wins against top-notch programs like Washington State and Arizona last weekend in the Utah Fall Classic, the U women’s soccer team can relax a little, right? It deserves a break, right? Not according to Rich Manning.

“Our biggest challenge this week will be to stay focused,” Manning said. “We’ve beaten some good teams the last few weeks, but we can’t let up now. This team needs to learn to deal with prosperity.”

This weekend, the Utes will continue their two-week stretch of home games against Fresno State and Colorado, two talented teams that are presently riding every bit as high as the Utes.

Case in point: Fresno State. The Bulldogs, who have not traditionally been known as a soccer powerhouse in the Western Athletic Conference, are undefeated through four games and are enjoying the best start in their program’s history.

Fresno spent last weekend in the Sunshine State, and improved its overall record to 3-0-1 with a dramatic 1-0 win over the No. 18 Florida Gators and a scoreless tie with Central Florida.

The Bulldog defense carried the team through both games, and has been a major reason for the team’s success thus far. Senior goalkeeper Angie Larsen has not allowed a goal in 380 minutes of play and has padded her stats with 29 saves in the process.

The Utes will also have to find a way to neutralize Bulldog defender Rochelle Jagdeo, the WAC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and senior forward Cortney Sobrero, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer.

“Fresno State will be coming in here with great confidence,” Manning said. “They had a great close to the season last year, made the NCAA Tournament and are coming off a huge win at Florida.”

These two schools have not played since Utah left the WAC for the Mountain West Conference in 1998. Fresno won that match and has the edge over the Utes in the all-time series 3-1. The last time the Utes beat the ‘Dogs was a 5-0 victory at home in 1997.

Following their defensive battle with the Bulldogs, the Utes will have to switch gears to prepare for what promises to be an offensive shootout with the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday afternoon.

The Buffs, who are also unbeaten and ranked No. 21 in the most recent NSCAA Top 25 poll, have already put up a ton of goals this season. They tallied an impressive eight goals last weekend in a 5-1 win over Clemson and a 3-1 win over Mississippi.

Freshman forward Nikki Marshall is the Buffaloes most dangerous player; she has five goals in four games and was recently named the Big 12 newcomer of the week. She and sophomore midfielder Alex Cousins make up one of the West’s most dynamic duos.

“They play tremendous soccer,” Manning said of the Buffaloes. “They have two very dangerous forwards in Nikki Marshall and Katie Griffin.”

The Utes and Buffaloes last met in the first round of 2004’s NCAA Tournament, a match that Colorado won 3-0. Although the Buffs lead the all-time series 3-1, they have never defeated the Utes in Salt Lake City.