Bay Area Comes to Ute Stadium in Two-Game Soccer Showdown


University of Utah freshman forward Kaitlyn Conley (16) dribbles the ball past University of San Diego defenders 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)

By Carlos Padilla

Coming off a tie to Pac-12 foe Arizona this past Thursday, the University of Utah soccer teams will have two opportunities this week to chalk up some games in the “win” column. The Utes have two home games against California and No. 2 Stanford. Along with improving their conference record, Utah looks to keep their record in their new stadium undefeated.

After a scoreless draw against the Wildcats, the Utes currently sits at 1-2-3 for conference play and remains ninth in the Pac 12. Kicking off the weekend against two Bay Area rivals, Utah faces the California Golden Bears this Thursday.

The Utes picked up their first win against Cal last season in a 2-0 victory in Berkley. Hopefully, the Utes now have California’s number, as the Golden Bears lead the series 1-7-3, including a 0-3-1 record when Utah is home. Cal currently sits sixth in the Pac, and a win for Utah would definitely help their case for a tournament visit. While Utah has been experiencing a rough stretch recently, this game should be competitive and could come down to the wire.

Ute faithful should be looking at Ireland Dunn for a big game this Thursday. Dunn assisted on both goals in the last match against Cal. If Dunn, supported by other top scorers such as Courtney Talbot, Holly Daugirda and Alexis Rushlow can find an offensive stride, this game could and should belong to Utah.

In their tie to Arizona, Utah could not find a friend in the woodwork. Tavia Leachman hit the post on one occasion, while Lulu Borges headed one off the crossbar in overtime. While the final score read zero, Utah had 12 shots taken, 9 on goal. If Utah can sneak a few balls past Olivia Sekany, their undefeated home streak will continue.

After their match with the Golden Bears, the Utes will have two days to rest and refine before facing No. 2 ranked Stanford. The Cardinal boasts an impressive 13-1 overall record and remains perfect in conference play.

Historically, Stanford leads the series 1-9-1. The Utes have not beat Stanford at home since 2006, and they have failed to score against the Cardinal since 2015. History aside, Utah is riding a wave of momentum when at home, so a series upset could be in the works.

With the offensive side of the ball a bit rough at the moment, Utah will have to rely on senior goalkeeper Carly Nelson and the defensive if the scoring opportunities are few and far between. Nelson has continued to shine, denying five shots against the Wildcats in last week’s matchup.

While the defense of Utah is solid, the offense must be running at full capacity. Dunn, Talbot, Daugirda and Rushlow, among other scorers on the team, will have to show up and shine out. Stanford will definitely not leave many scoring opportunities. Utah must channel the same energy they had against the Wildcats, and earlier this season, to create opportunities to put up points.
Utah must also play a physical game. Against Arizona, the Utes stayed strong and fought against the Wildcats until the final tick.

Head coach Rich Manning commented on his team’s physical play after Thursday’s match.

“We played with tremendous grit and determination,” Manning said to Utah athletics. “Arizona is a physical team that presses all over the field. There were not many opportunities to put the ball on the ground and get clean possessions, but we played aggressively and created some good chances. I am proud of the effort.”

If Utah wishes to stun the Cardinal and continue their bid for an undefeated season at home, they will have to show the same amount of grit and determination, add a lot. While the odds may be stacked against Utah, this game could be much more competitive than some may think. Players to watch for the Cardinal include Catarina Macario, Madison Haley and Carly Malatskey. All three athletes are among Stanford’s top scorers.

With a busy and challenging weekend ahead, Utah has an excellent opportunity to pick up two very high-quality wins. It is time for Utah to go through the crucible and show the rest of the soccer world what this team is truly made of.


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