Two for the road

By By Lennie Mahler and By Lennie Mahler

By Lennie Mahler

“You win some, and you lose some” is how the old saying goes. Unfortunately for Ute soccer fans, the U soccer team has not been doing enough of the former and entirely too much of the latter in recent weeks.

The Utes went winless on their two-game road trip to Big-10 country, dropping yesterday’s match at Illinois 4-1 and Friday’s contest at Purdue 2-0. The two losses left the team in the midst of a three-game losing streak, its first such streak of the season.

“We played two good teams that were excited to play us,” U head coach Rich Manning said. “What is there to say besides ‘ouch?'”

Yesterday’s 4-1 loss to Illinois must have been painful for Manning to watch. The Utes spotted the Illini a three-goal lead before scoring one of their own, a strike by Adele Letro in the 79th minute.

Utah actually out-shot the Illini 8-7 in the first half but trailed 1-0 after a goal by Jessica Bayne in the 40th minute. Much to the Utes’ dismay, the one-point deficit was as close to victory as they were going to get.

Utah’s back line spent the entire game trying to figure out a way to stop Illinois forward Chichi Nweke, who blew the game wide open in the second half with goals in the 56th and 66th minutes. Adding insult to injury, she added one more goal to give her a hat trick in the 88th minute.

“Illinois demonstrated some clinic finishing today,” Manning said. “I thought that we had some nice scoring chances ourselves, but I give them credit because they put away the chances they had.”

Friday’s match against the Boilermakers was every bit as heartbreaking. The Utes’ usually stalwart defense surrendered two goals to Parissa Eyorokon in the first 18 minutes, and Utah was forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game as a result.

The Utes mounted a furious comeback attempt and ultimately out-shot Purdue 13-9, but the Boilermaker defense clamped down on Utah’s attack, preserving the shutout and securing the win.

“In the second half, I thought we played some wonderful soccer,” Manning said. “But our second half effort was too little too late. Hopefully we can learn from this and continue to grow.”

With the team stuck in a rut at 4-4 and conference play just around the corner, Manning is going back to the drawing board in an attempt to fix what he considers a set of chronic problems.

“We’ve been getting the same feedback for the last four or five games now,” Manning said. “We keep saying that we need to play consistently for 90 minutes and stop giving up easy opportunities, but we still haven’t done it. We haven’t made any improvement since the first two weeks of the season.”

Next week, the Utes travel to the Gem State to face Idaho State before returning to Salt Lake City for a two-game homestand featuring games against Utah State and Pepperdine.

Lennie Mahler

Utah junior Katie Battazzo fights an Arizona attacker for the ball in a Sept. 3 win at Ute Field. The Utes fell 4-1 to Illinois on the road Sunday and head to Idaho this weekend.