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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Changing of the forward

By Tom Quinn

According to at least one player on the U women’s soccer team, head coach Rich Manning is a “creature of habit.” When he finds something that works, be it a lineup, a breakfast cereal or a shirt/tie combination, he sticks with it.

This season, however, the Utes’ roster has seen more turnover than a game of musical chairs. The back line has been decimated by injuries, and Manning has had to get pretty creative in order to fill some of the holes.

Not all of Manning’s stopgap solutions have been successful, but one that is paying astonishing dividends is the move that put reserve forward Carisse Winegar on the field as a defender.

“She’s been terrific,” Manning said. “She’s a fast learner. She got to practice a lot and watch a few games at the beginning of the season, and I think that helped with the transition.”

Although she still appears on the roster at forward, Winegar is playing almost exclusively at outside defender and logging more minutes than ever. Manning wanted a more physical presence on the back line, and Winegar has done a good job of providing muscle in spite of her inexperience.

“I’ve always played offense pretty much my whole life,” Winegar said. “But I really like playing defense. It’s a new challenge, and it brings new excitement.”

Winegar’s defensive odyssey began during the team’s recent road trip to Big-10 country. She came in against Purdue with about 10 minutes left in the first half and has played virtually every minute of every game since.

“The other girls on defense still help me a lot,” Winegar said. “They still have to tell me who to cover and when to drop.”

Winegar’s defensive play was one of the key elements that led to the Utes’ 2-0 win over visiting Pepperdine last Friday. The entire back four was stalwart, holding the Waves without a shot in the second half.

Utah’s defense will need to be just as impressive this weekend as the Utes begin Mountain West play at home against UNLV and hated rival BYU, the only other teams that have claimed Mountain West titles since the league was organized.

The Utes’ showdown against the Rebels will take place Thursday afternoon at Ute Field. UNLV is coming off a hard-fought, 1-0 win over Pepperdine, a victory that lifted them to 5-6-1 on the season.

The Rebels’ unspectacular record is not a good indicator of their talent. Senior midfielder Tanya Roberts was named the MWC’s Defensive Player of the Week after her performance against Pepperdine, which included a game-winning goal in the second overtime.

Keeper Ciera Nero is also making quite a name for herself, compiling three shutouts in the Rebels’ last four games. Junior Katie Carney leads the team with three goals and three assists.

“UNLV is always good defensively,” Manning said. “I think this will be a tight game. It will probably come down to one or two plays.”

The Utes will have little time to catch their breath after the UNLV game; the Cougars come to town two days later for a Saturday afternoon contest.

Winegar and the rest of the Utah defense will have to keep an eye on BYU forward Katie Fellows, a sophomore with a knack for making big plays. Her three goals have her tied for tops on the team, and two of those were game-winners.

The Cougar defense is even more statistically impressive than its offense. Keeper Erika Woodbury is BYU’s all-time leader in saves and has allowed only five goals all season long.

Admission to Thursday’s game will be free to all on account of Fan Appreciation Day. Saturday’s contest, however, will feature reserved seating.

Lennie Mahler

Forward Carisse Winegar fights off Pepperdine midfielder Emily Wynne in Friday’s 2-0 win at Ute Field. After fending off 20th-ranked Pepperdine, the Utes face UNLV and BYU in two home games this weekend on Thursday and Saturday.

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