Back on Track: Utes Soccer Looking Strong Going Into Conference Play


University of Utah sophomore forward Anna Escobedo (22) celebrates after scoring a goal 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)

Back on track. That is how best to describe the last few stretches of games played by the University of Utah Women’s Soccer team (5-3-1, 0-0-0 Pac-12). After starting 2-3-0, the Utes have not dropped a contest. Last night’s performance against San Diego (4-4-1, 0-0-0 WCC) was more evidence that the Utes have found their rhythm. Shutting out the Toreros 1-0, the Utes played a solid game on both sides of the ball.

The only score of the game was a special occasion for sophomore Anna Escobedo, as it marked her first collegiate goal. Escobedo commented after the win to Utah Athletics.

“It feels so good to finally score. It has been difficult at times, but it is rewarding to know the hard work has paid off. There have been tough days, but my teammates have remained so encouraging. The positivity on this team is outstanding, and the coaches have helped by putting in extra time with me.”

The Utes seemed to have not missed a beat from Friday. Scoring opportunities were plentiful as the offense flowed effortlessly. The Utes looked smooth with precise ball movement and athleticism. Holly Daugirda alone found herself shooting four shots, two right on target. Emali Mackinnon, coming in after some first-half injuries, sent a rocket towards the goal that was barely tipped up by San Diego goalkeeper, Amber Michel. Ireland Dunn flipped a switch in the second half, creating three scoring chances for the Utes.

While the scoreboard may have only had one digit on it, the Utes were always on the attack and kept USD on their heels for the entirety of the game. Head coach Rich Manning appeared to be delighted with the performance of his second-string players.

University of Utah senior midfielder Holly Daugirda (12) dribbles the ball towards the San Diego Toreros side 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)

“Our team’s depth continues to show each week. We had several players make a strong impact on the game. Anna has been working hard, and a was a difference-maker. Emali and Lulu Borges, among others, put in quality minutes. It is great to see players stay ready and make a contribution.”

While the offense put the match to bed, the Utes defense should never be overlooked. For the fifth time in the last six games, senior goalkeeper Carly Nelson made sure the Utes’ opponents could not find the back of the net. The Utes defense dogged on San Diego both halves, limiting them to only one shot in the second half.

“Our team put in another gritty defensive performance. I thought we defended well from front to back,” Manning said to Utah Athletics. “We were able to shut down USD’s attack and create some opportunities. I am really proud of our team for developing a strong defensive mentality during the non-conference slate.”

With the win over San Diego, the Utes wrapped up non-conference play. After a rocky beginning to the season, Utah is sitting at a 5-3-1 record. With Arizona State on the horizon, the Utes have significant momentum going into PAC 12 play.

With every game now truly impacting the fate of the post-season, the Utes must continue their defensive domination. Carly Nelson and the Utes’ backline must stay on the attack. On the offensive side of the ball, the Utes must continue to play smoothly and create shooting opportunities.

All things considered, Utes fans should be feeling confident and optimistic going into conference play. The Utes will be back in action on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and can be watched on the PAC 12 Network.


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