Soccer tarnishes Cougars unbeaten record

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

For the U women’s soccer team, wins don’t come much sweeter than the victory it had Saturday night.

The Utes marched into Provo and stole a hard-fought 1-0 win over the previously undefeated BYU Cougars (11-1-2) in front of a crowd of more than 3,300.

“It’s always nice to come and beat them on their own field,” said Ute senior midfielder Melissa Crespo, who scored the game-winning goal. “To silence their fans feels good, I must say.”

Two matches into the conference schedule, the Utes (9-2-3) find themselves in a nice position. With arguably the two toughest teams — UNLV and BYU — out of the way, the Utes are 1-0-1 in the conference while BYU dropped to 1-1-0.

“The fact that both teams are really good makes it sweeter for the victor and more bitter for the team that loses on the day,” Utah coach Rich Manning said. “We’ll be seeing these guys again.”

After an intense, scoreless first half, the Utes took the lead in the 60th minute when Melissa Crespo scored her first goal of the season on a header from six yards out.

The play was set up by Katy Reineke and Kelly Isleib who teamed up on a short corner kick.

“They managed to keep the ball even though there were two BYU defenders out there,” Crespo said. “Kelly hit a great cross, and I was just in the sweet spot.”

It was Crespo’s first game-winning goal.

The Utes held BYU off for the final 30 minutes, and handed their rival its first blemish on what has been an outstanding season thus far.

“It was kind of surreal,” Crespo said of her big moment. “It’s only my third goal ever. I’m not typically a goal scorer so I kind of had to look up and make sure it was actually in the net.”

To her teammates’ delight, it was.

Isleib, who Manning refers to as Utah’s version of Steve Nash, earned her 11th assist of the season, which ranks her among the nation’s most prolific assisters.

BYU outshot Utah in the first half by a 6-3 margin, but goalkeeper Lynzee Lee and the Utah back line thwarted BYU’s chances. Lee made three second-half saves and picked up an impressive shutout — although she almost made a disastrous error late in the game when she misjudged a ball that bounced over her head. Lee remained poised as she scrambled toward the Utah goal, saving what would have been the equalizer, as Ute fans collectively gasped.

The sophomore, who is in her first season as the Utes’ starting keeper, has allowed just three goals in the last five games.

“I was really proud of our defense,” Manning said. “We’ve had trouble all year. I thought Melissa Crespo in midfield and Amanda Sanchez and Kiley (Jones) as well as our goalkeeper were terrific tonight.”

While Utah’s win would probably be considered an upset on paper, the victory doesn’t come as a huge surprise to those close to the Utah women’s soccer program.

Going into Saturday’s showdown between the MWC powers, the Utes were on a 10-game unbeaten streak.

The road victory is an impressive footnote on the Utes’ résumé as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned. Utah is one of only a few teams in the West Region to go to five straight NCAA tournaments. Judging how this year is going, the Utes will likely be invited to a sixth.

“From the NCAA tournament standpoint, it takes some of the pressure off the next few games,” Manning said.

The Utes’ next match is slated for Oct. 18 when Air Force pays a visit to Ute Field.

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