Utah and No. 4 Stanford battle it out, end in draw

- Chris Ayers
Utah’s first Pac-12 play against the No. 4 Stanford was an expected back-and-forth battle, considering both teams were unbeaten heading into this matchup. The two teams battled for the full 90 minutes, and then some with two overtime periods, but neither squad could pull ahead of the other as the game finished at a 1-1 draw.
“We had a lot of adversity throughout the week,” Head Coach Rich Manning said. “People playing different positions and people coming off injury, for them to come out and battle the way they did was great.”
The Cardinal were the favorite going into the game, having not giving up a single goal in their first nine games and it showed at the start of the game. The Utes were on their heels as Stanford’s attack was strong and it held good possession of the ball.
After about 15 minutes, Utah began to build strength in its own attack, however, Stanford scored just as the Utes started to gain some momentum in their attack. The goal came in the 22nd minute from an attempted cross that found the far post, side netting. Junior Lindsey Luke misjudged the cross and the ball floated over her head, but she wasn’t too disappointed at this point.
“Actually I felt fine about it, which is weird cause I get really frustrated when I let any goals in,” Luke said. “I just had this feeling that this team had more and we weren’t going to let that determine this game.”
At the half, the Cardinal tasted blood and wanted more from Utah. It was evident in their possession, which was strong and quick. Manning wanted his team to be able to have the ball a bit more, but that was no easy task against the No. 4 team in the nation.
“They wear you down,” Manning said. “You get the ball and your mentally and physically beat up; you just give it right back to them. You’re not trying to, but that’s just what happens.”
The second half told a different story for Utah when it equalized the game only a few minutes into it. Sophomore Katie Rigby headed the ball from just inside the midfield line, up to senior Katie Taylor. She then flicked the ball with her head to freshman Mariah Elmer, who then pushed the ball past the final defender then.
After seeing no opening in the goal, Elmer toe-poked the ball into the net. It was the first goal to be scored on Stanford and Elmer’s third in three games.
“I’ve scored in our nonconference, so it was like a total different thing scoring against Stanford in our conference game,” Elmer said.
Elmer was like the Energizer Bunny out there, causing a lot of problems for the Cardinal defense. She would fly by defenders with her speed and push through them with her strength.
“Those are national team level players and she’s dicing them up,” Manning said. “We see that every day in practice.”
The match would remain scoreless for the rest of regulation, forcing the two unbeaten teams headed to extra time.
The play in extra time reflected the score, dead even. Neither side was able to find the back of the net. The best chance to a winning goal came from Stanford senior Lo’eau LaBonta, when she struck a bouncing ball with great pace towards the Utah goal. Luke, who was named Pac-12 keeper of the week the previous week, jumped and made a magnificent fingertip save to keep the game level. Manning called the play world class on both sides.
“Right place at the right time,” Luke said. “I was ready for the shot. I didn’t know what kind of shot. I’m thankful I was in the right place at the right time.”
Both sides came away with one point each, due to the tie, to start conference play. For the Utes, the draw felt like a success but the same can’t be said for the Cardinal.
Utah will continue its conference play next weekend when it travels to Los Angeles to take on another top-ranked team in No. 1 UCLA.
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