Utes get through tough stretch, look to win out

— Erin Burns

Utah is just over the halfway mark in conference play after last weekend’s draw against Cal. The Utes have only been able to secure one win in the past six games. Head coach Rich Manning said the hard part of their schedule is over now, and the upcoming games should all be winnable.

“We feel confident coming back home with some good opportunities here,” Manning said. “We want to get some shutouts and we want to get more goals. I think we’re confident that’ll play out in the next few weekends.”

Utah did start off Pac-12 play with a difficult stretch, having four of its first six opponents ranked in the top 25. Five of those six games were on the road as well, where the team tends to struggle.

It started with a promising draw against then-No. 4 Stanford. Next up was the reigning national champions in UCLA. The Utes received their first loss of the season with a tough 1-0 result against the Bruins, and Utah only won one conference game after that. Despite not obtaining the success they thought they would, the squad and Manning held their heads high through the tough times.

“We got through a brutal part of our schedule,” Manning said, “playing some of the best teams in the league and being on the road for five games.”

Utah will have four straight home games to try and redeem itself from the difficult away stretch. The home games favor the Utes as they currently hold an 18-game unbeaten streak at home.

“I think a big thing is to stick together as a team,” sophomore Katie Rigby said. “Build off of what has happened and learn from the past.”

Leadership

In soccer, most teams declare who their captain is by allowing that player to wear a captain’s arm band while playing. At Utah, despite having a captain of its own, no player wears a captain’s arm band. Manning wants to embrace the team mentality, but also realizes that he has a number of leaders on his squad.

“We have a strong group of seniors,” Manning said. “They’re some veteran players that do a really good job of that.”

Junior Megan Trabert, who has started nearly every single game since her freshman season at Utah, was voted the team captain last spring almost unanimously. She is a strong presence in the defense and leads her team from the backend of the field.

“She’s a great leader and she’s very talkative,” Rigby said. “I think our team is made up a lot of leaders that are either leading by example or leading by talking. We kind of have a mix of all different kinds.”

Trabert does have some help from her teammates when it comes to leading her side. Junior Lindsey Luke can always be heard instructing her team where to defend, a quality every good keeper has.

Along with Luke there is another leader, but this one is more of the silent type. Even though senior Katie Taylor can’t be heard as much on the field, she lets her talent do the talking for her. Taylor is always on the field and involved in almost every play for the Utes.

Taylor currently leads the team in goals and assists.

Injuries

A coaching staff can never predict when or if their players are going to get injured. They can only hope that not too many players go down. This is something Manning has been trying to deal with.

Manning currently has three starters down. Seniors Ashton Hall and Monica Larsen are both out as well as junior Kaycee Buckley. Both Hall and Buckley are coming off recent knee surgeries and look to be out for the rest of the season.

Larsen is the only one of the three to not play a single game this season. Manning hopes to try and get Larsen some playing time before the season is up.

The next opportunity for the Utes to play will be Friday evening when they host Washington at Ute Field.

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