Top of the heap

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

The U women’s soccer team has been looking down on the rest of the conference for weeks now, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the Utes got their first official view from the top.

Utah clinched the 2006 Mountain West Conference title with a 2-0 win over San Diego State yesterday afternoon. The Utes’ ninth consecutive win improved their overall record to 13-4 and their conference record to a perfect 6-0.

Forwards Adele Letro and Amanda Feigt each contributed goals for the No. 11 Utes, and goalkeeper Ashley Mason shut down the Aztecs’ offense, running Utah’s current shutout streak to an impressive eight games.

“This team has demonstrated excellent character all season,” U head coach Rich Manning said. “As we have throughout this stretch of wins, we got timely goals, timely defense and timely saves by Ashley (Mason).”

Letro struck first for the Utes in the 54th minute with a rocket from nearly 30 yards out. After chasing down a pass deep in Aztec territory, Letro slipped past the defense and uncorked a shot that snuck just under the crossbar.

“Once again, Adele scored the opening goal of the game,” Manning said. “She’s been scoring timely goals all throughout the conference season for us.”

After a few near misses by SDSU’s forwards, Feigt gave the Utes some breathing room with a goal in the 70th minute. Feigt took a pass from midfielder Melissa Crespo, and after a few perfunctory touches, beat the keeper with a left-footed shot into the right side of the net.

The team’s first game of the weekend wasn’t much of a game at all; the Utes scored early and often en route to a 4-0 win over conference rival TCU. Letro found the back of the net twice, and fellow forwards Feigt and Hailey Marsh contributed one score apiece.

Letro’s eighth goal of the season came on a penalty kick that she set up herself with a brilliant run into TCU territory.

The sophomore dynamo slipped past the Frogs’ back line with the ball, forcing the outside back to foul her deep in the box.

Feigt, a senior, doubled the Utes’ advantage early in the second half with a picture-perfect lob that beat TCU keeper Katy Buchanan to the far post. Buchanan had mishandled what should have been an easy save, and Feigt made her pay for coming off her line.

Letro added her second goal of the game just 10 minutes later off an assist from Feigt. The score not only put the Utes up 3-0, but also put Feigt atop the team’s list of all-time assists leaders. She is tied for first with 21.

With the game well in hand and the clock running down, Crespo found Marsh alone on the far side of the field. Marsh took the ball into the box and slipped the ball inside the far post for her fourth goal of the season.

“Hailey had been practicing situations like that all week long with our goalies,” Crespo said. “That’s why she made it look so easy.”

Utah goalkeeper Ashley Mason didn’t face a single shot on goal as the Utes extended their shutout streak to seven games. Mason was replaced in the 66th minute by Lynzee Lee, who made two saves to preserve the Utes’ clean sheet.

While Manning is happy about the Utes’ second consecutive championship, his plans for this team extend far beyond the regular season.

“We are certainly delighted that we won the conference,” Manning said. “But we still have a lot more soccer to play, more goals to achieve and more improvement to make.”

Lennie Mahler

Jen Christoffers breaks away from TCU’s Sara Schneider Friday, as Utah went on to beat TCU 4-0 Friday at Ute Field.