Strong Second Half Leads Utah to 2-2 Draw
PORTLAND – Trailing 2-0 in the second half, the Utah women's soccer team stormed back as Taliana Kaufusi recorded the first multigoal game of her career, leading Utah to a 2-2 draw against the University of Portland in the 2022 season opener.
Kaufusi entered the game with five career goals and increased her total by two on the first night of the 2022 season. She led the team with three shots in the game, and Utah had ten as a team. In net, Evie Vitali recorded four saves in her Utah debut. Ryann Cull and Courtney Brown picked up an assist in the game.
"It was an evenly matched well-played game by two quality teams to open up the season," remarked head coach Hideki Nakada. "We started slow and took us longer than we needed to get in the game, but I am really proud of our Utes' resiliency to respond after giving up two tough goals. I am disappointed we weren't able to put away another when we had our momentum, but also give credit to Portland. They played us tough on both sides of the ball and were particularly effective in transition moments going forward. I feel we've learned a great deal about ourselves from this match, and we will use it to get better. I am excited for us to come back to Salt Lake City to play in front of our fans officially for the first time this Sunday."
The Pilots came out on the attack early in the game, but Utah goalkeeper Evie Vitali was up for the challenge. Early in the first period, Nedya Sawan to a shot on goal, but Vitali recorded the save. About four minutes later, Utah had its first shot of the game when Katie O'Kane fired a shot that was off target.
The Utes defense continued to play well as Vitali tallied three saves in the first half, and the Utes defense blocked a handful of Pilot shots.
In the 30th minute of the match, the Pilots broke the scoreless tie. After Utah was called for a foul in the box, Portland lined up for a penalty kick, and Sawan scored when she went to the top left corner.
Utah continued to pressure the Pilots' defense as Avery Brady had the first shot on goal for the Utes, but Bre Norris made the save. Utah went into halftime down 1-0.
Both teams tried to get the offense going in the second half, and Utah had the first chance as Madeline Vergura had a shot that Norris saved. Fifteen minutes into the second half, the Pilots grew their lead to 2-0 after Aubrey Turner sent a high arching shot that found the back of the net.
Less than a minute later, the Utes countered and scored their first goal of the night. Ryann Cull found Kaufusi, and she went to the bottom left of the goal and scored for the Utes. Four minutes later, the Utes tied the game. This time Courtney Brown found Kaufusi, who beat the Pilots goalie for her second goal of the game, this one in the 67th minute, tying the game at 2-2.
Following Kaufusi's second goal of the night, both teams had opportunities to score, but both goalkeepers did not allow another goal, and the game would end in a 2-2 draw. The game would end in a tie after 90 minutes after the NCAA Playing Rules Oversite Panel eliminated overtime during the regular season.
Utah returns to action on Sunday when they open its home slate by hosting Colorado State. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. from Ute Field. The first 500 fans in attendance will receive a rally towel, and Utah students in attendance will receive free pizza, and otter pops, while supplies last.