Utes hope week off gives them a leg up

By By Matt Sanchez and By Matt Sanchez

By Matt Sanchez

The women’s soccer season is in the home stretch.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the women’s soccer team (7-8-2, 2-2-1 MWC) is looking to go into the Mountain West Conference Tournament on a high note.

The MWC has been highly competitive, as only two teams are without a loss in conference play. Defending regular season and tournament champion BYU is ranked No. 21 in the nation and is 4-0-1 in conference. The only thing keeping the Cougars’ record from being perfect is a 2-2 tie with San Diego State.

Wyoming (3-1-1 MWC), New Mexico (3-2-0) and SDSU (2-0-2) are also in front of the Utes in the standings.

“As we have said from the start, our conference is extremely well-balanced and all the games are close,” said head coach Rich Manning. “The margin of victory in our league is razor-thin, and I still think there is a lot to be determined.”

The winner of the conference tournament will get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, with the at-large bids having the strength of RPI. If the MWC Tournament started today, the Utes would be the No. 5 seed and would need to win it all to get a spot in the national tournament.

“The conference is so competitive, but it’s always that way,” said senior midfielder Kelly Isleib. “The games have been so close throughout the Mountain West. We have had some tough losses where we came up short at the end, but we played well. It’s nice to see us compete so hard, even in a loss. But time isn’t on our side, so we need to win our last three games.”

The Utes split last weekend’s home games, beating TCU soundly 3-1 and losing a closely contested match against New Mexico 1-0. The players are focusing on the standings but know that they control their own destiny and that winning will put them where they want to be.

“Conference play is so important and keeping a positive mindset and working hard to finish out the season is our focus,” said redshirt sophomore Erin Dalley. “We know what we can do on the field, so it’s just a matter of us getting everything clicking.”

The team has this week off to prepare for the end of the season and plans to use this valuable practice time to work out some kinks.

“We are going to use this week to continue working on the little things that will help us be successful as we head to the end of the season,” Manning said. “In the next couple of weeks, we have three games plus the conference tournament, so it will be important for us to use this time to prepare for all of those.”

The Utes face a tough match when they travel to Wyoming on Saturday for a showdown with the Cowgirls. Utah will finish conference play Oct. 31 when it hosts Air Force at 1 p.m.
“There are going to be a lot more tight games and a lot of movement in the standings as we head toward the tournament,” Manning said. “We just have to focus on our next game and try to get a result that will help us.”

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Tyler Cobb

Erin Dalley and the rest of the Utes? soccer team are focused on finishing the season strong in hopes of improving their footing for the conference tournament beginning early next month.