Utes prepare for MWC Tournament

By By Matt Sanchez

By Matt Sanchez

Now that the regular season has come to an end, the six qualified Mountain West Conference teams will fight for the conference tournament crown.

Utah soccer (9-9-2, 4-2-1 MWC) will go into this year’s tournament as the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 seed TCU (9-9-0, 2-5-0) in the opening game today at noon.

The only meeting between the two teams this season was a 3-1 victory for the Utes on Oct. 15. All-time, Utah holds a 4-3 record against TCU.

“I have a lot of respect for TCU’s team,” said Utah head coach Rich Manning. “They have some tremendous attacking talent. (Lizzie) Karoly and (Jordan) Calhoun are two of the best forwards in the conference and are capable of scoring a match-winner at any moment. You have to be aware of them as well as a couple others at all times. I always enjoy playing them. They like to attack, and it’s an open game. I look forward to another good match.”

The Utes made it to the tournament championship last season by beating the Horned Frogs in the semifinals 2-1 in overtime. Utah then fell to BYU in the title game 1-0.

“This is what we play all season for,” said senior midfielder Kelly Isleib. “We have practiced and prepared for this tournament, and we know we can go down there and win it all.”

BYU will be hosting this year’s tournament, and all games will be played at South Field in Provo.

The other first-round game will feature No. 4 New Mexico taking on No. 5 Wyoming at 3 p.m.

“We’ve seen all these teams before, so we know how to match up against them,” said redshirt sophomore Erin Dalley. “If we come out focused, have energy and play together, then we can accomplish big things.”

BYU (16-2-2, 6-0-1) finished the season as the No. 9 team in the country and go into the MWC as the regular-season champions for the fifth time. The Cougars hold a 15-3-1 all-time record in MWC Tournament play and have won the championship six times in the 10 years since the conference was established.

BYU and No. 2 seed San Diego State each have a first-round bye. SDSU will play the winner of Utah and TCU on Thursday at noon, and BYU will face the winner of New Mexico and Wyoming at 3 p.m.

“If we are able to win on Wednesday, we would really look forward to the opportunity to play San Diego State,”

Manning said. “I thought during conference play they were one team who really took it to us, and I think we would really embrace the chance to try again. They are on a hot streak and playing with such confidence. It would be a great challenge for us and something we would want to take on.”

The championship game will be played Saturday at noon.
Manning said he knows that for his team to win, the players must be mentally tougher than their opponents.

“I think a lot of it boils down to the mental side of the game,” he said. “You have got to be mentally tough, confident and play with poise. Teams that are able to play in that intense environment are usually the ones who are successful.”

[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

The Utes? soccer team starts conference tournament play today against TCU, which they beat 3-1 in their regular season matchup in October.