Utes kick off 2014 season with a win

Starting off the season with a win is something every team strives for in nearly every sport. Strong performances in the beginning of seasons are crucial to a team’s success the rest of the way.

For the women’s soccer team, that’s exactly what it accomplished Friday night as the Utes earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Oral Roberts.

“It’s always good to start the season off with a win,” said head coach Rich Manning. “We performed well in a lot of areas, and it is a good way to start.”

Senior Katie Taylor led the way as she took part in both Utah goals, scoring one and assisting on the other.

“Katie is an excellent player and started off her senior year with a highly impactful game,” Manning said. “She is one of our four pit bulls there in the midfield, and they make it difficult for the team because they are good on the ball but they also play great defense.”

Another one of those “pit bull” midfielders is Katie Rigby, who tallied the other goal of the match. Rigby’s goal came not even 10 minutes into the game when senior Ashton Hall crossed the ball in front of the goal. In a scramble for the ball, Taylor managed to get the ball loose, and Rigby put it in the back of the net.

The Utes controlled this match nearly the entire way as Oral Roberts could only muster up three shots, with only two of them being on frame. Junior goalkeeper Lindsey Luke made both of those saves and registered her 14th career shutout.

After gaining the lead early, Manning’s first-game nerves died down, so he decided to call on his bench. Six non-starters had an opportunity to play Friday night, including freshmen Janie Kearl and Mariah Elmer. Manning noted that he believes this is an extremely deep squad and said he has a lot of confidence in his players.

“There is definitely a balance in the first of the season to put people out there and try to get them game fit, but you also want to win the game, because this game matters just as much as our last one [of the season] against Colorado,” Manning said.

All in all, the team was happy just to finally get out on the pitch and start playing some real games again.

“I think we were all so anxious to get started,” Taylor said. “We wait for this all spring and work towards it all summer.”

Despite just competing in a fast-paced game and gaining some momentum, Manning believes Sunday’s tilt against Oklahoma will be a different story.

“The opponent will probably play a little bit differently,” Manning said. “It’s going to be at one o’clock, so it is going to be 100 degrees of humidity.”

With the temperature being so high, Manning anticipates that the game will be played at a slower pace and hopes the Utes will be able to dig deep and make plays in the hot conditions.

The Utes will kickoff against the Sooners Sunday at 12 p.m. MT.

d.garcia@chronicle.utah.edu

@dominic2295

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