Battle in the Desert: Sun Devils and Utes Clash in Conference Opener


By Carlos Padilla


It was a thriller in the desert as the University of Utah (5-3-2, 0-0-1 Pac-12) soccer team faced off at Arizona State (6-2-2, 0-0-1 Pac-12) to kick off Pac-12 play. With both teams refusing to budge, Utah’s first Pac-12 game will go in the tie column with a 2-2 outcome in double overtime.

The game started off with Utah on the attack. In the 16th minute, Courtney Talbot snuck in the first point of the night in the near post off of a beautiful pass from Holly Daugirda. Daugirda herself was set up by Kaitlyn Conley. All in all, the Utes’ offense seemed as on form as they have looked the past few games. Playing fast, selfless and well-conditioned soccer, the Utes were in the driver seat.

While the game seemed to be going Utah’s way from the start, the Sun Devils did not wait long to retaliate. Merely eight minutes later, Alexia Delgado evened the score. The Sun Devils showed off their quick scoring ability and forced the Utah defensive to stay on their heels.

Although ASU was quick to answer, Utah did not let off the gas. Utilizing the quick passing that has served the Utes well, Talbot took three more shots in the first half alone. When the first period ended, the scoreboard sat at one apiece.

Utah showed off their mental and physical strength as the second half began, continuing to create shot opportunities. Hailey Stodden sent two rockets to the goal, only to be blocked by ASU goalkeeper, Giulia Cascapera. Kristin Fairbairn also had a look at the net.

The offensive standstill in the 63rd minute. Marleen Schimmer of ASU capitalized on some miscommunication by the Utah defense. Now down 2-1, the Utes needed to find the back of the net. Daugirda had a great look at a goal, only to smack the near post.

The much-needed points for Utah came from the foot of Aleea Gwerder. After the Sun Devils were called for a handball offense, Gwerder scored the leveling point in the 76th minute. With the game once again tied, Utah had several looks at a game clincher. Anna Escobedo and Talbot both had decent looks for the game-winner. Without a score, the game entered overtime.

While in extra minutes, Utah made sure all offense ran through Daugirda, Ireland Dunn and Fairbairn. While several opportunities presented themselves, they were unable to seal the deal.

After the game, Gwerder commented to Utah Athletics. Gwerder suffered a season-ending injury in 2018 while playing against ASU, and her penalty shot seemed to serve as a bit of redemption.

“The goal brought things full circle for me. It just marked the end of the recovery, and I can fully move forward,” Gwerder said to Utah Athletics.

“I think it was big for Aleea because this is where she suffered the injury that ended her season last year,” head coach Rich Manning said to Utah Athletics.

Manning also seemed pleased by the way his team played the entirety of the match. Utah did not show signs of fatigue, despite the long game.

“It is a tribute to the physical conditioning and mindset of the players,” Manning said. “This is one of the deepest teams we have ever had, and we have a bunch of players that play well and contribute depending on the style of the game and the moments. The needs today were fresh legs, people who could defend well and create chances.”

With this draw, Utah’s conference record currently sits at 0-0-1. A well-played game, Utah should be able to carry their momentum into next week’s matchup against the Oregon State Beavers. If all goes well, the Utes will pick up their first Pac-12 win of the year and continue their campaign for the championship.

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