Moving on to conference

By By Matt Sanchez

By Matt Sanchez

Let the second season begin.

With a 1-0 loss to Pepperdine on Sunday afternoon, the Utah women’s soccer team (5-6-1) has completed its nonconference schedule.

After starting the year 4-0, beating a ranked team (Santa Clara) for the first time since 2007 and being ranked No. 19, the team hit a wall and has gone 1-6-1 since.
Head coach Rich Manning points to the team’s tough schedule and plethora of underclassmen as the reason for the bumps in the road.

“We’ve gotten submerged by some of our results and have challenged ourselves against top-notch competition,” Manning said. “I’m confident we can compete for the conference title. We just need to get our mind set in the right place.”

The team is focusing on building from its experiences, moving on and starting fresh for Mountain West Conference play.

“Our slate is clean,” said senior forward Kelly Isleib. “It’s a brand new season starting Saturday. We will work on a few things and start fresh.”

Last season, the Utes finished second in conference play at 5-2 and lost 1-0 in the MWC Tournament Championship to BYU.

“We have such a talented team, and we know how to win,” said freshman forward Hanna Terry. “As of now, everyone in the conference is 0-0-0 and we have the chance to redeem ourselves.”

This year, the MWC is deep with talented teams.

“From top to bottom the conference is so good this year,” Manning said. “No team will back down from us, so we need to come and play each night. I know we have what it takes to do well in conference.”

New Mexico might be the surprise team, because it sits atop the standings with an 8-1-2 record. The Lobos have held their opponents scoreless on seven occasions this season and will play at Utah on Oct. 17.

The defending MWC regular season and tournament champions are the BYU Cougars. BYU has an impressive 8-2-1 record heading into conference play. The Cougars have beaten three nationally ranked teams and will host the Utes on Oct. 3.

“We have had success in the past when it comes to conference play,” Manning said. “I know this team can do the same.”

Utah captured its first conference title in 1999, the inaugural year of the MWC. The Utes were named co-champions as they finished in a three-way tie with San Diego State and BYU.

Utah’s next league title came in 2003, as the Utes swept both the MWC regular-season and tournament championships. Utah went undefeated in conference play for the first time in school history, posting a 6-0-0 record. The Utes then topped BYU by a 2-0 score in the tournament championship match, held in Salt Lake City.

The successful 2003 campaign kicked off a string of four straight years in which either the regular season or conference tournament hardware rested in the Utes’ trophy case at season’s end.

The Utes will open up conference play at BYU on Oct. 3.

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