Utah plays hard but falls to two ranked teams, UCLA and USC


— Chris Ayers

Three games into the Pac-12 season, and the Utes are still searching for their first conference victory.
“Today was not our best day,” said head coach Rich Manning. “I think we kinda shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”
Utah spent the weekend in Los Angeles to take on both No. 1 UCLA and No. 23 USC. Friday brought a 1-0 loss to UCLA, and more of the same came on Sunday as Utah lost 2-0 to USC.
On Friday, the Bruins’ offense fired off 13 shots and forced junior keeper Lindsey Luke to make eight saves.
UCLA asserted its dominance over the Utes by attacking from all sides. The Bruin attack never stopped, and the Utes called for a Tim Howard-esque performance from Luke to keep them in the contest. The lone goal of the game came in the 48th minute, when a shot to the near post found its way past Luke.
Even with the Bruins pushing forward in attack, Utah struggled to find a weakness in the Bruin defense.
“They present multiple challenges to defenses,” Manning said. “You have to figure out which one to try and solve first.”
Utah’s attack had a better showing against USC but was still unable to get the ball in the net. Both Trojan goals came from USC strong attacker, senior Alex Qunicey. She towered over Luke and put a corner in with her head for the first half. In the second half, after a deflection off a Ute defender, she buried her second goal. It was the final nail in the coffin for Utah’s weekend.
“I didn’t think we played as well as we could have,” said junior Megan Trabert. “USC just jumped on that.”
Manning was disappointed with some of his players’ decision-making. He pointed out that the passing could have been better and more chances could have been created.
Manning believes the Pac-12 is the best conference in women’s’ soccer, and the history of the league backs up his claim — two of the last three national champions have come from the conference.
Trabert has started in every game since she was a freshman and knows what her conference opponents are capable of.
“That’s what makes it so fun, but also a little bit frustrating,” Trabert said. “It’s really physical, and the speed of play is quick.”
Playing such high quality teams can hurt the Utes’ chances of making it to the post season, but Manning and Trabert don’t mind.
“It benefits us going forward that we’re in this league,” Trabert said. “It helps us be more prepared, and it’s even better when we beat these high-ranked teams.”
Utah wants to grow from playing these tough opponents so that they can be ready for the post-season, but there might not be a post-season if the Utes don’t figure out how to stop teams like UCLA and USC.
Utah won’t face another ranked team until Oct. 17 when it takes on California. The Golden Bears are currently ranked No. 12.
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