Utah Soccer Looks to Tame Sun Devils in Pac-12 Opener

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The University of Utah Women’s Soccer team line up prior to the start of the game in an NCAA Women’s Soccer game vs. San Diego University at Ute Field in Salt Lake City, UT on Sunday September 22, 2019.(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

With a 1-0 win over the University of San Diego this past Sunday, the University of Utah women’s soccer team capped off their non-conference games for the season. After starting off 2-3-0, many fans were nervous that a repeat of last season’s 3-6-1 start was going to take place. However, since losing to rival BYU, the Utes have not dropped a game. With an offense that has been looking smooth and effective to a backline and a goalkeeper that has created four straight shutouts, the Utes appear to be on a roll. Finishing non-conference play with a record of 5-3-1, Utah is definitely riding a wave of momentum into the conference part of their season.

With Arizona State starting off Pac-12 play, Utah must be in top form. In the past eight meetings between these programs, the games have been competitive. Currently, both programs are tied with three wins apiece. Utah won last year’s match in Tempe, beating the Sun Devils 2-0. Now ASU looks for redemption, while also taking the lead in the series this Friday. In order to keep the Sun Devils at bay, the Utes must execute in several key categories.

First and foremost, Utah must continue to run a smooth offense. Last Sunday, the Utes dominated the offensive side of the ball. Shot opportunities were far from scarce against San Diego. Senior Holly Daugirda had four shots alone, two on target. The Utes took 13 shots in total on Sunday. Along with creating shot opportunities, the Utes must find the net. Averaging one point per the last four games, if the Utes plan on winning Friday’s matchup, they must try to improve point production. While soccer is not known for being a high scoring sport, the more points the Utes put on the scoreboard, the better they will look against the Sun Devils and the Pac-12 teams at large. Creating shot opportunities and capitalizing will be crucial for a Utah victory. Looking into the not-so-distant future, if the Utes wish to be a true contender in the Pac, point production is a must.

Secondly, as with any sports team, the Utes must show up defensively. With the Arizona State team averaging nearly three points a game, Utah must find a way to keep the Sun Devils from scoring. However, the Utes are better equipped than most to keep points off the scoreboard. As previously mentioned, Utah’s backline and goalkeeper have created four shutouts in a row, as well as five shutouts out of the last six games. With Carly Nelson ever-present in the goalkeeper box, the defense should be the least of the Utes worries. However, Utah would be wise to take nothing for granted and spend their practice week analyzing ASU’s attack offense and refining ways to limit shot opportunities.

With conference play less than a week away, Utah seems to be in a better position to make a true run for the tournament than in the last few seasons. The Utes are chasing history, hoping to go even farther than the 2016 campaign. The quest for Utah’s first Pac-12 title starts on Friday at 3 p.m. Fans who are not able to get a ticket can see the Utes in action on the Pac-12 Network.

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