Battle at the beach

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s soccer team has proven over the last few weeks that it’s hard to beat at home.

The Utes are 4-0 at Ute Field but have struggled a bit on the road, where Utah is 1-2-1.

The Utes will try to prove that they’re a tough team with or without the comforts of home today, when they face Pepperdine (1-4-2) in Malibu, Calif.

The Waves’ record might not be impressive, but they’ve played three ranked teams and recently tied with then-No. 6 UCLA in a 1-1 draw.

“(Pepperdine) is a fun team to play against,” coach Rich Manning said.

Although some teams are overly physical or have extremely tall players who camp out in front of the goal and score headers, “(the Waves) just like to come out and play,” Manning said.

Both Utah and Pepperdine started off the season slower than they would have liked.

The Utes kicked off the season with a record of 1-2-1, though being on the road for their first four matches contributed to their so-so results.

Pepperdine fared worse than the Utes in the early going. The Waves were shut out in the first five games and couldn’t find the back of the net until they broke through with a three-goal effort against Denver.

In total, the Waves have tallied four goals in the season.

Utah has been much more prolific. The Utes’ goal count is at 18, eight games into Friday’s matchup.

Nine of those goals were scored by Ute forward Adele Letro, who leads the Mountain West Conference in scoring and is ranked fifth nationally in that category.

Letro is averaging 1.13 goals per match, and Pepperdine as a whole averages only 0.57.

Still, no game is a gimme for the relatively inexperienced Utah team, which lost seven starters last year. Pepperdine is a solid program that has appeared in five out of the last six NCAA tournaments.

Prior to the Utes’ recent four-game homestand, Manning made a key switch in the Utes’ scheme.

Manning moved senior midfielder Kiley Jones, a second-team all-MWC selection in 2006, to the back line, where the Utes were lacking in experience.

Senior Melissa Crespo was moved to center-midfield in her place. The Utes are undefeated since the personnel switch-up.

Manning would like to see more consistency out of his players.

“There’s stretches of 10 to 15 minutes of each half where I’m pleased,” Manning said.

The coach would like to see those stretches extended, he said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. The Utes return home for a Sunday match against Boise State at 1 p.m.

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Liz Rohde

Kylie Jones anticipates her opponent’s moves Saturday in the Utes’ victory against Washington.