Utes travel for crucial conference game

By Matt Sanchez , Staff Writer

As the season quickly comes to an end, it’s time for women’s soccer to kick it up a notch.

The Utes (7-8-2, 2-2-1) look to bounce back from a tough home loss against New Mexico and to climb the conference standings when they travel to Wyoming (9-5-3, 3-1-1) for a showdown with the Cowgirls on Saturday afternoon.

The Utes have enjoyed a lot of success against Wyoming and are 16-1-0 all-time, including a 4-1 record in Laramie, Wyo. In 17 total matches, the Utes have scored 45 goals and only given up 10 to the Cowgirls.

Utah’s only loss to the Cowgirls came the last time the two teams met in Wyoming, a 4-1 defeat in 2007. In last year’s meeting, Utah captured a 1-0 victory with just more than a minute left in double-overtime Wyoming is finishing the season on a strong note and has gone 5-1-1 in its past seven games. The Cowgirls have been playing strong defense and have held their opponents scoreless on five occasions this season.

“I think it’s clear from the season Wyoming is having, and the results that they’re getting, that team has grown in its self-belief,” said head coach Rich Manning. “They have been difficult to score on and have managed to win a lot of close games.”

As a freshman, goalkeeper Courtney Merkle has started every game this season for the Cowgirls. She has only allowed 15 goals and has made 80 saves between the pipes, all the while totaling five shutouts.

“They have a solid goalkeeper, good, hard defenders and very determined attacking players,” Manning said. “I’m sure it will be a close and hard-fought game.”

Wyoming has positioned itself near the top of the Mountain West Conference standings. Its only loss to a conference opponent came Oct. 15, when San Diego State shut out the Cowgirls in Laramie.

“Playing up there in (Wyoming) is always tough, especially this time of year,” said senior midfielder Kelly Isleib. “We are expecting a physical game. This will be a good test for us because they have been playing great soccer lately.”

Wyoming is led on offense by freshman forward Carmen Blume and senior defender Emma Wilson. Blume leads all scorers with four goals and has scored twice in league play. She also has two assists to her credit. Wilson has been setting up the Wyoming offense from a defensive position and has seven assists on the season.

“Watching Wyoming on tape, they are very fast and play organized,” said redshirt sophomore Erin Dalley. “They have a lot of success when they control the tempo of the game, so we can’t let them do what they want.”

Wyoming is led by second-year head coach Danny Sanchez, who has accumulated a 17-15-4 (.528) record in his two seasons in Laramie. Sanchez was hired to turn the Wyoming program around, and won two NCAA Division II National Championships while at Metro State College in Denver.

With two conference games left on the schedule, the Utes can guarantee themselves a place in the MWC Tournament with a win in either game. The top six teams qualify for the MWC Tournament, and the Utes are in fifth place.

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Mennie Mahler/The Daily Utah Chronicle

After losing to New Mexico last week, the Utes will try to bounce back with a win in Laramie, Wyo. A win would give Utah a place in the MWC Tournament.