Utes ride high on a win, come down on a tie

 

-Brent Uberty

Starting off the season with a win is something every team strives for in every sport. Strong performances in the beginning of seasons are crucial to a team’s success the rest of the way.

For the women’s soccer team, that’s exactly what it accomplished Friday night as the Utes earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Oral Roberts.

“It’s always good to start the season off with a win,” said head coach Rich Manning. “We performed well in a lot of areas, and it is a good way to start.”

Senior Katie Taylor led the way as she took part in both Utah goals, scoring one and assisting on the other.

“Katie is an excellent player and started off her senior year with a highly impactful game,” Manning said. “She is one of our four pit bulls there in the midfield, and they make it difficult for the team because they are good on the ball but they also play great defense.”

Another one of those “pit bull” midfielders is Katie Rigby, who tallied the other goal of the match. Rigby’s goal came not even 10 minutes into the game when senior forward Ashton Hall crossed the ball in front of the goal. In a scramble for the ball, Taylor managed to get the ball loose, and Rigby put it in the back of the net.

The Utes controlled this match nearly the entire way as Oral Roberts could only muster up three shots, with only two of them being on frame. Junior goalkeeper Lindsey Luke made both of those saves and registered her 14th career shutout.

After gaining the lead early, Manning’s first-game nerves died down, so he decided to call on his bench. Six non-starters had an opportunity to play Friday night, including freshmen Janie Kearl and Mariah Elmer. Manning noted that he believes this is an extremely deep squad and said he has a lot of confidence in his players.

“There is definitely a balance in the first of the season to put people out there and try to get them game fit, but you also want to win the game, because this game matters just as much as our last one [of the season] against Colorado,” Manning said.

All in all, the team was happy just to finally get out on the pitch and start playing some real games again.

“I think we were all so anxious to get started,” Taylor said. “We wait for this all spring and work towards it all summer.”

Despite just competing in a fast-paced game and gaining some momentum, Manning knew the Utes’ next game Sunday afternoon against Oklahoma was going to bring new challenges. Utah had a hard-fought game in the heat of the sun against the Sooners, and it ended in disappointment.

Coming off a win, the Utes tried to keep that momentum going. It seemed they’d succeed when junior Kaycee Buckley scored her first goal of the season just nine minutes into the game. But Oklahoma was able to answer shortly after with a goal of its own in the 26th minute to knot it up at 1-1.

The game would remain tied after 90 minutes and went into extra time. Although each team had plenty of chances throughout the game and in the extra time, the final result would stay a tie.

Manning predicted the game would be played at a slower pace than Friday’s game because of the heat in Norman, Okla., and he was right. Utah could only fire off 12 shots against the Sooners compared to the 23 in its previous match. Junior goalkeeper Lindsey Luke only saw three shots come at her during the game, saving two of them.

Only two games into the season, this was the first opportunity the Utes had to play in extra time. Returning Utah players are familiar with extra time games, as the team played in 11 different games in 2013 that required an overtime period, including its last four games of the campaign.

The Utes will use this week of practice to prepare for their first home match of the season on Friday when Boise State comes to town. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. MT.

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