Utes buckle under pressure, drop tough games to ASU and Arizona

— Chris Ayers

The only thing that Utah has kept consistent lately is losing tough games. This weekend was no exception. The Utes dropped games against Arizona and Arizona State over the weekend, with each match ending in a 2-1 loss for Utah.
“At the end of the day we have to be better in our attacking box, and we have to defend our box better,” said head coach Rich Manning. “That’s the cruel reality of the situation.”
The frustration of the Utes’ losing streak was evident on both days. The injury-plagued Utah squad forced Manning to go deep into his bench.
“If we have 11 players that can get on the field, we feel good enough that we can win,” Manning said.
Friday was a strong game for both sides when Utah played the Wildcats. Both teams were creating chances and defending well and went into the half scoreless.
Coming out in the second half, however, Arizona got off to a better start and registered a goal to make it 1-0, Wildcats.
Just under 10 minutes later, senior Avery Jenkins leveled the game. Jenkins had been all over the field doing everything she could to help her side and was finally able to take matters into her own hands, rifling in a shot from 40 yards out. The ball flew in the small gap between the Wildcat’s keeper’s hands and the crossbar.
After an Arizona counter made the score 2-1, the Utes were too exhausted to recover. Both Manning and Jenkins were frustrated with the loss because they knew the Wildcats were a beatable team.
On Sunday, the Sun Devils were in town for Utah’s senior night, but it was Arizona State’s forward Cali Farquharson who had a special night on Ute Field. Farquharson used her superior speed to blow by Utah’s defense and buried two goals throughout the game.
“[Farquharson] is a great forward,” Manning said. “She got behind us a couple times. But it goes back to the 18-yard box. We got to do a better job.”
The Sun Devils’ full-field pressure was enough to fluster the Utes. Utah was having trouble stringing a few passes together because of the pressure that also caused the Utes to play the long ball instead of working at building up its offense.
“I think that the way the game was going added frustration,” said junior Megan Trabert. “We were in a panic and had to score.”
Fortunately for Utah, Trabert has been excellent all season long when it comes to scoring off corner kicks. She loves to sit on the back post and send balls into the back of the net with her head. It is her only chance at scoring, as she is the central part of the Utes’ defense.
“Every time there is a corner, I really look forward to going up,” Trabert said. “I just hope to put one in, and I was glad I was able to do that today.”
After Trabert’s goal, it seemed as if the Utah attack found some new life. Senior Katie Taylor had a shot that bounced off the crossbar, and freshman Mariah Elmer also had a few chances that went just wide of the net.
In the end, Utah dropped the game, and the seniors left Ute Field one last time on the losing side.
The Utes have had a tough time in conference this season. With only one win in the Pac-12, Utah will go into its final game with the hope of ending the season on a high note.
The final match of the season will be played in Boulder, Colo. against the Buffaloes. The game will be on Friday at 12 p.m. MT.
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