Utes ready for tough home-opener competition

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

After completing a road trip in which the Utes were forced to endure back-to-back overtime games in the same weekend, head coach Rich Manning and the Utes will now turn all their attention to the 2008 home opener against the Arizona Wildcats.

Both teams will come into Ute Field Friday night coming off important wins in this young season.

The Utes, after falling just short to nationally ranked Wake Forest on Aug. 22, came back with a strong showing that was capped off by a goal in extra time by junior Kelly Isleib to give the Utes a 2-1 win over North Carolina, Greensboro.

Arizona, on the other hand, kicked off its season with a 1-0 win over Cal Poly. The only goal in the game was scored by Arizona sophomore Karina Camacho in the 35th minute.

“I’m anxious and eager to see how we perform in our first home games of the year,” Manning said. “Now that we have two games under our belt, I want to see if we can continue to improve.”

Emotions will be running high for the team as it makes its home debut, but the real challenge will be to keep those emotions in check as Arizona returns a veteran team from last season. Seven of the Wildcats’ starters from 2007 are back this year. However, Utah has gotten the best of the Wildcats since coach Dan Tobias took over at Arizona, taking two of three meetings since 2003.

Opening night at Ute Field won’t be the only action for the team this weekend. The Utes will follow up the meeting with Arizona by hosting the nationally-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is ranked No. 18 in the country and is coming off a solid 2-0 win against in-state rival Mercer. It was freshman Ashley Miller that was responsible for both Georgia goals, but the Utah defense will need to account not only for Miller, but also for Hermann Trophy National Player of the Year candidate Carrie Patterson as well.

“Georgia will be another good measuring stick for us, too,” Manning said. “They have a quality team that plays good soccer and they will test us.”

One way or another, come Sunday night after the game, the young Utah team will have played two nationally-ranked teams and will already be four games into its season. Both the team and its fans will have a far better idea of just how good this team can be.

The action kicks off Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Ute Field against Arizona. The Utes will host Georgia on Sunday at Ute Field at 1 p.m.

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