Utes look to carry home momentum into conference tourney

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer

The beginning of this season might not have gone the way head coach Rich Manning and his squad pictured it, but starting tonight, the Utes will do their best to ensure that their 2008 campaign doesn’t end the same way it started.

After starting the year a dismal 1-58212;all against non-conference opponents8212;Utah has managed to salvage the season by rallying together during the course of conference play. Currently tied for second in the conference with TCU and UNLV, the Utes look to separate themselves from the logjam atop the Mountain West Conference.

Unfortunately, Utah will have to wait until Sunday to take control of its conference destiny. First up, the Utes have to take care of business tonight at Ute Field against Seattle University.

This will be the first time SU makes the trip to Salt Lake City as it marks the first time in school history that the two teams have met. The Redhawks are enjoying considerable success in their first season in the NCAA Division I level and are bringing to Utah an impressive record of 8-3-3. Seattle is coming off a weekend much like the Utes had last week, splitting two tough games on the road.

The Redhawks first went into Brookings, S.D., and fell to South Dakota State 1-0 before finishing the road trip in Fargo, N.D., where the Redhawks took care of business, defeating the Bison on their own turf 3-2.

Seattle has relied heavily on junior forward Jamie Coe, the Division-II standout that has continued her success at the next level, netting seven goals thus far in the season. That tally is good enough to lead the team in points with 14. Not far behind Coe is freshman Kassandra Riozzi with four goals and three assists for 11 points.

“Seattle is playing its first year as a Division-I school and has had a fantastic opening season,” Manning said. “Julie Woodward is a terrific coach. Her team will be well organized, cohesive and motivated to play.”

On the defensive end, the Redhawks have depended just as much on their goalie Madison Goverde, who has played every minute between the pipes this season. Goverde has allowed only 14 goals all season and opponents have managed less than one goal per game against the freshman keeper.

Utah will again get back into conference play Sunday afternoon in the final home game against Wyoming. Historically, the Utes have been rock solid against the Cowgirls, posting a 15-1-0 record all-time as well as an undefeated record at home. Utah’s only loss against Wyoming came last year when the Utes were shocked 4-1 in Laramie, Wyo., in the regular season, only to beat the Cowgirls later that year in the conference tournament in Provo.

Utah will have to be at its best as Wyoming will come to Salt Lake City in desperate need of a win to ensure its spot in the upcoming conference tournament. The Cowgirls will rely on their well-balanced attack to get by the Utes. First-year head coach Danny Sanchez has seen 12 different players contribute to the Wyoming offense this year and will hope his attack can pose a threat against Utah’s top notch defense.

“(Wyoming is) right behind us in the standings,” Manning said. “So this game will be critical in deciding where each team starts in the conference tournament.”

The final action of the year at Ute Field gets underway tonight at 7 p.m. against Seattle and wraps up Sunday afternoon against Wyoming. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

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Aaron Schwendiman

The Utes will host their final two home games this weekend when they face Seattle University and Wyoming.