Strong Second Half Effort Not Enough, Utah Soccer Falls 1-0 at #10 California
BERKELEY, Calif. – The Utah women's soccer team battled the No. 10-ranked California Golden Bears on Sunday evening at the Witter Rubgy Field, but ultimately fell 1-0 despite Utah's offense getting up last-chance efforts late in the game while the Ute defense held strong in the final 45 minutes.
California put the pressure on early as the Golden Bears found themselves on Utah's side of the half consistently throughout the first 45 minutes. Utah's defense fended off the Cal attack repeatedly, including right from the get-go with three corner kicks and a shot off the crossbar in the first eight minutes from Cal.
Brooklyn James got Utah's first good look on goal after she sent one to the bottom left corner in the 14th minute that saw Cal's goalkeeper make the diving save to keep Utah off the board. The Golden Bears retained possession for extended minutes as Utah's offense struggled to get going early on.
Utah had its chance on a free kick in the 27th minute just outside the box, along with an opportunity in the 34th when Erin Bridges got a look but had it blocked to see the Utes remain scoreless in the half. Amidst Utah's opportunities, Cal had gotten off eight shot attempts before Keely Roy kicked one past SJ Edwards to the bottom right corner to get the Golden Bears on the board.
Anna Escobedo ripped one above the crossbar just before halftime was called, sending Utah to halftime trailing 1-0. Cal put up 10 shots in the first half to just five by the Utes, although three of Utah's were on frame. Utah was held to just one corner kick and was forced to defend four in the first half, but managed to come out unscathed from all four.
Utah's offense turned it around in the second half and was able to pick up steam for the remainder of the game. After going back-and-forth out of halftime, it was in the 57th minute that Utah's Courtney Talbot dribbled up the left side and sent a cross Kaufusi's way in the box, but the freshman's header went high. Kaufusi's header marked Utah's fourth shot of the half, while the Ute defense contained Cal to just one shot to that point.
The defense for Utah continued to hold strong and in the 76', Utah's offense had another opportunity to tie the match. Kaylee Coatney took a free kick after a Cal foul right outside the penalty box and off the deflection came in Talbot with a ball that was sent high and dropped in an inch too far to hit the top post and be denied. Utah got a pair of corner kicks out of the series, but could not convert.
Keeping the pressure on with time ticking down, Talbot got off another look in the 85th minute that was saved, while the closest chance of the day came in the 89' from Kaufusi once again. Kaufusi received a ball in the middle of the box and under pressure turned toward the goal and ripped one right off the top crossbar to just miss for the last-minute equalizer. Talbot got the ball off the crossbar, but her shot was sent high as time winded down.
Despite a strong second half that went wire to wire and outshooting Cal 8-3 in the final 45 minutes, Utah could not tie the match and fell to the ranked squad to close out the road trip.
Utah finished with 13 shots - five on goal - while California posted 13 shots, which included just three in the second half and three on goal. Edwards, who started the game as goalkeeper for Utah, finished with one save, while Chelsea Peterson earned the nod in the second half and earned one save as well.
Utah will return to Salt Lake City to play its first home matches of the season at Ute Field. Utah will host USC this Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m. MT. The Utes will then host UCLA on Sunday, March 14 at 1 p.m. MT to close out the weekend.