With Fall Sports up in the Air, the Utes are Poised for Strong Seasons Across the Board

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University of Utah Utes Women's soccer team defender Aleea Gwerder (9) makes a run with the ball during an NCAA soccer match vs. the Stanford Cardinal women's soccer team at the Ute Soccer Field in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019 (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Writer

 

With the current state of the sports world up in the air, the University of Utah is unsure about what next season will hold. With fall sports unlikely to look the same as normal, if they even happen at all, it will be a season like no other. Stadiums may not include fans, athletes will take extra precaution and certain sports may be pushed back or cancelled altogether. With no official word from the university or the Pac-12 on what exactly will happen this fall, teams and athletes are bracing for anything.

Collegiate football is the biggest question mark. It’s the most popular fall sport by far and brings in a lot of money for schools. Universities are motivated to make a football season happen because that’s what helps fund other sports and programs. 

Regardless of when the season happens, the Utes have a lot to play for. After falling short in the Pac-12 Championship Game last season vs. Oregon and a disappointing bowl game vs. Texas, Utah will look to build on what was largely a successful 2019 campaign. Many successful seniors departed for the NFL, but the Utes should still be a favorite in the Pac-12 South and will challenge for the title yet again. They are scheduled to open against longtime rival BYU on Sept. 3rd at home, but as mentioned previously, that is very much subject to change. How will the Holy War feel with no fans in the stands? We’ll have to wait and see.

Beyond the football season, things don’t get much clearer. If they play, Utah’s women’s soccer team looks to continue their steady success into the 2020 campaign. The Utes lost eight seniors to graduation last season, including longtime goalkeeper Carly Nelson, winner of many accolades and records during her career at Utah. After an 8-9-4 finish last year and a loss in the NCAA Tournament at the hands of Duke, Utah has room to improve this year. Led by coach Rich Manning who has been at the helm since 2002, Utah should again be competitive in the Pac-12 and will be able to put together a successful season.

Utah will also field a competitive volleyball team in the fall. The Utes finished last season ranked No. 17 and made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament before losing to Stanford. Much of the team is returning for this season’s campaign, so Utah will be well equipped to build on a successful 2019 campaign.

Beyond that, other sports are certain to look different. Golf, tennis, cross country and swim & dive are all slated to begin this fall. With seasons that span months and involve travel and meets in various locations across the country with many competitors, the way some of these sports are run will have to be altered to meet updated health and safety guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic. These seasons will likely change to involve less travel and potentially fewer meets. As the fall gets closer, more details will be revealed, but as of now, it’s unlikely these sports will look the same this season.

Cross country finished No. 16 in the nation last season after a strong season capped by a great performance at the NCAA Championships. It was the highest finish in program history.

Tennis looks to build on a strong campaign from both the men’s and women’s teams with another competitive season, despite last year’s being cut short due to the ongoing pandemic.

Swim & dive will also field a competitive team after a strong season last year. The Utes will potentially challenge for the Pac-12 title.

Overall it will be an interesting fall for the university’s athletic programs. The Utes are preparing as if the season will go on as normal, but no one can be sure what the future will hold. Rumors are out that the Ivy League will move its football season to the spring, which could potentially have a huge domino effect for the rest of the NCAA. If colleges do decide to move most fall sports to the spring, that just means it will be that much more of a challenge for teams to make things work. Regardless of when the season takes place, the Utes will have competitive teams across the board and they will be able to challenge for titles in many areas. The pandemic has put much of the sports world on hold, but with pro leagues returning, it’s only a matter of time before collegiate sports join them.

 

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