Soccer embarks on road test

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer

The Utes leave this weekend for their final tune-up before opening conference play next weekend at home.

Utah will first travel to Seattle for a matchup Friday night against the University of Washington. The Huskies were off to a hot start this year, winning their first seven matches before falling to Illinois last weekend.

“It’s going to be a hard road trip for sure,” sophomore right-back Morgan Skeen said. “Washington was undefeated until last Sunday, so they’re going to be on their high right now, but we’re going in and hoping to come out with big wins and, if we do, it’s just going to set us up higher for conference.”

Skeen was just named to SoccerBuzz’s Elite Team of the Week and knows Utah’s defense will be tested against the potent offense of the Huskies, who are averaging more than two goals a match. The Utes will look to slow down junior forward Veronica Perez, who has already tallied six goals and two assists this year, giving her 14 points on the year.

“The backline that has been starting has had 8-10 games together and that continuity has really helped them because it’s such a decision-based position,” Utah head coach Rich Manning said. “We’re getting more aggressive so we’re not just sitting back and letting teams come at us, especially Morgan (Skeen) and Nicole (Cardon) on the outside.”

While the Utes will have their hands full on defense, offensively they will be taking on one of their own. Kelly Isleib and Katy Reineke will spearhead the Utah offense against Washington goalie Alex Phillips. Phillips, a Park City native, has a .647 save percentage this year and has only given up six goals all season.

Washington will be gunning for the Utes, following last year’s disappointing 3-2 loss at the hands of the Utes. The Utes trailed 2-0 with just over 30 minutes to play, only to rattle off three consecutive goals to beat the Huskies in regular time.

“I’m sure they will be waiting to get back at us for that,” Manning said. “It was a disappointing result for them.”

But the road trip will not get any easier for the Utes. After finishing in Washington the team will travel all day Saturday only to arrive in San Luis Obispo, Calif., by Sunday to take on Cal Poly that afternoon.

“Its going to be a physically taxing road trip,” Manning said. “We will be traveling all day Saturday and we beat Cal Poly here last year, so it will be a good test of spirit for us and a chance to get some good wins.”

Cal Poly currently holds a 4-5-0 record but will host Utah State on Friday night before playing Utah on Sunday. It was a rough start for the Mustangs, who dropped their three first games, but the team has rebounded over the past six games.

“Cal Poly is a big, physical team,” Manning said. “Their field is a little smaller so it can be a challenge.”

This will be Utah’s last chance to work out any kinks the team may have before opening up conference play next weekend at Ute Field against rival BYU.

“Every game we play provides us with more experience and an opportunity to demonstrate that we can consistently play good soccer and do what it takes to win,” Manning said. “Hopefully we can do that this weekend and then carry that into our conference-opener against BYU on Oct. 4.”

The road trip kicks off Friday night in Seattle at 8 p.m. The Utes will be back in action Sunday against Cal Poly for an afternoon matchup which will be getting underway at 2 p.m.

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Aaron Schwendiman

Roxanne Tebbs runs down a ball last week against long beach state. This weekend the Utes hit the road for their last games before starting conference play.