Utes gear up for challenging weekend

By By Matt Sanchez

By Matt Sanchez

With the majority of its preseason in the rearview mirror, the women’s soccer team (5-3) is home for a week of practice before heading out on the road again this weekend.

Last week, the Utes split their two games with a 2-0 win at home against Princeton and a 2-1 defeat on the road to No. 20 Colorado.

At times, the Utes have looked like a team set on making a deep run into the postseason. At other times, their youth and inexperience shines through8212;of the 24 players on the team, 17 are underclassmen.

“Our team is so young and like I’ve said before, growth is not always linear,” said head coach Rich Manning. “We are facing tough challenges and the team is responding well, but there are still areas that definitely need improvement.”

The members are getting excellent play from their underclassmen, and Manning pointed out that they have no other options.

Redshirt sophomore Erin Dalley has made a huge impact coming off the bench, giving the Utes a shot of energy when she enters the game. Dalley is now tied for the team lead in goals (three) with senior Kelly Isleib.

“Sitting out last season was really tough, but I think I learned a lot from the sidelines and I’m excited when I get the chance to help our team win,” Dalley said. “Winning is the most important thing.”

Utah has now scored 15 goals this year with 10 different players finding the back of the net. The Utes have had offensive production from all over the field, as nine goals have been made by forwards, three by attacking midfielders, two by center backs, one by a holding midfielder and one by an outside back.

Although they have been scoring from everywhere, the Utes have not been successful when playing from behind. In each of its three losses, the team has given up an early goal and have been unable to recover.

“We have been practicing getting off to good starts so we can rely on our defense to wear down the other team,” said Isleib. “If we are using up all our energy to try and score goals, then that’s not a good thing.”

Utah is getting ready for yet another challenging nonconference weekend against nationally-ranked competition as it heads to Los Angeles for the UCLA Women’s Cup. The Utes will take on No. 6 ranked UCLA (4-1-1) Friday at 7 p.m., then face Loyola Marymount (4-3) on a neutral field at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The Utes hope for a repeat of their only other meeting with UCLA, a 2004 contest that saw the Utes capture a 2-1 win over the then-No. 7 ranked Bruins in Los Angeles.

“UCLA is as good as anybody in the country,” Manning said. “They will give us a huge challenge with their speed and ball movement. I am looking forward to seeing how the team responds.”

The Utes are 0-1-1 all-time against LMU, including a 0-0 draw last year, with both matches being played on the Lions’ home turf. The previous result was a 1-0 victory for LMU in 2005.

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Richard Payson

Erin Dalley has provided the Utes with energy off the bench this season after missing last year with a knee injury. Dalley is tied for the team lead in goals with three.