Women's soccer: No. 2 Stanford beats Utah 1-0
A year ago, the Utah women's soccer team bunkered down and absorbed wave after wave of Stanford attack in a four-goal defeat.
On a crisp fall Friday afternoon, Utah lost to the Cardinal again, 1-0, at Ute Field.
Yet, the game was a good gauge of how far the Utes have come in their second season of Pac-12 competition. Though dominated defensively in stretches, the Utes battled toe to toe with the nation's No. 2-ranked team.
"No gimmicks, let's play," Utah coach Rich Manning said. "They did a fantastic job. Other than the result and a horrible coaching decision, it's a great day."
Manning's decision to have his team play an offside trap during a free kick on the Utes' half of the field backfired, and Nina Watkins slotted home what turned out to the game-winner in the 35th minute.
"They were ready for it," lamented Manning.
Watkins' effort was one of the few scoring chances for either team. Stanford (10-1-1, 4-0-0 Pac-12) managed four shots on target while the Utes (7-3-2, 2-2-0), with four shots total, forced just one Cardinal save.
"These conference games are all tough," Stanford coach Paul Radcliffe said. "You go on the road to places like this that are tough to play, the games are challenging.
"We could have been better in the final third."
The game took a few minutes to find its rhythm and gradually evolved into a contest dominated by stretches of Stanford possession followed by Utah counterattacks.
Yet in the last five minutes, it was the Utes applying pressure and Stanford running down the clock.
"On our home field, we can play with anybody," Manning said. "To have them play toe to toe is a great step in our development."