Arizona Comes to Town as Utah Soccer Opens Pac-12 Schedule
SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah women's soccer team is getting ready to dive into the Pac-12 portion of their 2022 schedule and the Utes' conference slate begins on Friday, when they'll host the Arizona Wildcats at Ute Field for a 7 p.m. match.
Date | Time: Friday, Sept. 23 | 7 p.m. (MT)
Utah (4-2-2) vs. Arizona (3-2-2)
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah | Ute Field
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Twitter Updates: @UtahWSoccer
Game Day Promotions
Friday's match will be Alumni Day at Ute Field and all former Utah soccer players and their families will receive free admission. Fans can pick up free Ute Thundersticks at the gate and Muss shirts will be given away to students while supplies last.
Much like Utah's Hideki Nakada, Arizona's Becca Moros is in her second year leading the Wildcats and she's coming off a debut season in which her team went 5-13 and collected two victories in Pac-12 play. So far in 2022, Arizona is more than halfway to their win total from 2021 and they started the year with back-to-back triumphs over Iowa State and Texas Tech.
The Wildcats will be attempting to build on a 1-0 victory over UC Davis on Sunday in which freshman Sami Baytosh tallied the only goal. Baytosh's two scores and five points are tops on the team through seven matches, though Megan Chelf leads the squad in shots with 15. In goal, senior Hope Hisey picked up her second clean sheet against the Aggies and owns a .774 save percentage.
All Time Against Arizona
The Utes have met the Wildcats 20 times since the program's inception, with the first meeting being a 2-1 Arizona victory in 1995. The Wildcats possess an 11-8 series edge over their Pac-12 rivals and the squads have also tied once. Utah did topple Arizona the last time the teams played at Ute Field, as goals by Courtney Brown and Taliana Kaufusi gave the home side a 2-1 win on April 11, 2021. Unfortunately for the Utes, that stands as their only victory over the Wildcats in their last five tries.
Last Time Against Arizona
Murphy Field in Tucson was the site when Utah and Arizona tangled in the fall of 2021 and the home side came out on top 1-0. The only score came from Jill Aguilera in the 15th minute and despite the Utes putting seven shots on frame, they were unable to manufacture an equalizer. Ali Schinko, Courtney Brown and Avery Brady were all credited with multiple shots, but Hisey stopped each one for Arizona.
Evie is Everywhere
Over the last three matches, goalkeeper Evie Vitali has racked up 17 saves and she's reset her season-high twice during that stretch. The most recent instance came against BYU on Saturday, when she registered seven stops, giving her 27 so far in 2022. That number puts her third in the Pac-12 and she's also in the top five in the conference in shutouts and save percentage.
The Utes are aiming for their first win in their Pac-12 opener since 2016, when they started conference play with a 1-0 win over Washington. The match's only goal on that day came Taylor Slattery in the 73rd minute and five Carly Nelson saves preserved Utah's triumph.
First Career Goals
Four different Utah players have netted their first career goal in 2022 and freshman Ryann Cull is the latest addition to the club after her score against BYU. Kyla Jennings tallied her first collegiate goal in an August 28 win over Illinois State and the group also includes Brooklyn Blaylock and Madeline Vergura, who's since added her second score of the campaign an Aug. 25 defeat of Denver.
The newest edition of the United Soccer Coaches regional poll was released on Tuesday and the Utes are currently ranked eighth in the Pacific.
Winning at Home
The Utes are winning .589 percent of their home games since the 2016 season. Utah has won 29 home wins since 2016 and has not had a losing season at home. The Utes opened their home schedule on Sunday and defeated Colorado State, 3-0. Sunday was the first of 11 games at Ute Field. The Utes won eight home games during the 2016 season, the most during this span.
Entering the 2022 season, the Utes will look for their ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Utes last went to the NCAA Tournament during the 2019 season. Utah's best finish in the NCAA Tournament was 2016 when they reached the Sweet 16.
Utah will play eight non-conference matchups before they get into conference play. Utah will open conference play on Friday, Sept. 23, when they host Arizona at Ute Field. Utah will finish the season with 11 conference games. The Utes close out Pac-12 play on Friday, Nov. 4, at Colorado.
New Name, Same Face
Returning to the team this year is Courtney Talbot. However, this year she will be Courtney Brown. Last season, Brown led the team in goals (5) and points (11). Her five goals were a career-high. She has eight career goals. Last year her five goals came in five different games. Her biggest goal of the season came when she scored to earn a draw against No. 3 UCLA.
New Year, New Staff
The 2022 Utes will have a new look this season as they have a new member on their staff. Head coach Hideki Nakada announced on August 8th the hiring of Nuno Gourgel as the new volunteer assistant coach. Gourgel comes to Utah after spending the last year at Utah Valley University. Before Utah Valley, Gourgel was an assistant coach with Robert Morris University's women's soccer program. Gourgel's coaching credentials include four seasons as the men's and women's head coach at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. He started both programs and won 108 games combined during his four seasons, including a 59-7-11 (.837) record with the women.
Preseason Pac-12 Coaches' Poll
On August 10th, the Pac-12 Conference announced the Coaches' Preseason Poll. The Cardinal of Stanford University was picked as the preseason favorite to win the league, while the Utes were picked to finish ninth.
The Utes will play their first Pac-12 road match on Sept. 29, when the schedule takes them to Seattle for an 8 p.m. match against the Washington Huskies.