Bench players are making a difference

- Chris Samuels

A coach’s choice of starters is based on many different factors. However, starters can’t win games by themselves, and sometimes they have to rely on their bench to make a difference.

“To me, someone coming off the bench has to bring a lot of energy,” junior Ali Allen said. “You have to help keep the energy high for the girls that are on the field.”

Allen is one of those bench players who tries to make a difference every time she plays. Her biggest effect on a game this year was when she earned Utah a penalty kick that decided the game against BYU. Although she was able to help her team beat the Cougars, most of the time it’s not that easy.

“I think it’s hard,” head coach Rich Manning said. “Finding the people that have that mentality to, one, accept the role, and two, bring that energy, is gold.”

Players coming off the bench have to be able to motivate and drive the team through the rest of the game. That can be a difficult task because players like Allen have to adjust to the game’s tempo as soon as they step on the field.

The Ute bench players have to be ready at a moment’s notice for Manning to call on them. Such was the case for senior Jill Robison last Sunday. During Utah’s victory over Utah Valley, starting right back sophomore Audrey Gibb was injured during warm-up. Just minutes before gametime Manning made the call for Robison to start in Gibb’s place.

“Jill started on Sunday with about six minutes left [before the game],” Manning said. “She had to be ready to go.”

A similar situation occurred earlier in the year when senior Ashton Hall went down with a season ending injury, forcing junior Baylee Nielsen off the bench and into the game.

“With the injuries, people like Baylee have been reserves at first and then started,” Manning said. “Their role has changed.”

The Utes have many options on the bench, ranging from freshmen Mariah Elmer, Janie Kearl and Cabria Turang to senior Robison.

With all the choices Manning has for substitutions, he has to worry about negatively affecting the chemistry his team has on the field. Too many substitutions might disturb the flow of the game enough to make players struggle to keep momentum.

“There might have been a couple games where we rotated people, we lost a little bit because of the change,” Manning said. “But, not worried at all. Those players need to play, those players can make an impact.”

Manning made a few key substitutions in the UVU game that led to two goals from bench players Mariah Elmer and Taylor Slattery.

Utah has the talent on the field to do well this season, but the players coming off the bench might be the ones making a difference.

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