Junior forward Amanda Feigt was a first team all-Mountain West Conference selection in 2004.
Aug. 8, 2005
The bright lights will be shining on the Utah women's soccer team both literally and figuratively in 2005. For the first time ever, night games will be played at Ute Field. And, with 10 starters returning from a team that has made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the spotlight continues to warm on a program that has flourished under fourth-year head coach Rich Manning.
"The goal for this team every year is to be at the top of the conference and go as far as we can in the tournament. We've reached the point where our players are used to playing big name teams and reaching the NCAA's. Now we want to get to the postseason, perform well and advance. Reaching that point is a process of several steps. You have to ride through the peaks and valleys of a season, and I think this group understands that now."
Due to numerous injuries to key players the last two years, Manning has been forced to continuously shuffle his lineup. Last year for instance, five of the Utes' top players were lost either before or during the season. With most of the injured players healed and some top-level recruits joining the 15 returning letterwinners, the Utah should field both its most talented and deepest team in its 11-year history.
"We really focused on working on ball possession and having more rhythm in our attack during the off season," says Manning. "I think the number of injuries we had--last season in particular--really hurt us in those two areas, and I think we've really improved there. We also spent a lot of time last spring working on shoring up our defense and being more consistent in our play."
Despite the obstacles they had to overcome, the Utes still managed to win 29 games and back-to-back Mountain West Conference Tournaments the last two years. "I feel like this team in really in a good place," Manning concludes. "There has been a lot of maturity with this team and some leadership is emerging. With the steps the younger players have made, I feel like we're ready to take this group off the leash."
"We have a nice balance up front of scorers and ball possessors, runners and set-up people," Manning expands. "We also have good depth and should be able to pose a variety of problems for opponents. The key element for us heading into the fall is that we need a couple of players to step up and provide some consistent scoring."
Junior Amanda Feigt has performed at a high level throughout her career. The Sandy, Utah, native was named first team all-Mountain West in 2004, leading the Utes with six goals and 17 points. "Amanda always has an impact on the game and opponents have to account for her," Manning points out. "Her explosiveness is incredible."
Manning is also looking for major contributions from two players who missed all or part of last season due to knee injuries.
Senior Kim Lloyd earned second team all-Mountain West recognition last season after transferring from UC Irvine. Despite missing the final six games with a torn ACL, Lloyd led the conference with eight assists and also scored two goals. She was cleared to play in June.
"We're optimistic she'll make a full recovery," Manning says. "Kim provides dribble penetration and is a threat to any defense."
Freshman Adele Letro has been forced to sit out the last two seasons after signing with the Utes in 2003. Missing the first year as an academic non-qualifier, the former member of the U.S. Under-16 National Team then suffered a knee injury in the summer of 2004. Manning is anxious to finally get the explosive forward into game action.
"Her strength and speed are outstanding," raves Manning. "Adele runs off the ball as well as anybody that I've worked with. She finds open spaces and we need to find a way to get her the ball. We expect big things from her."
A benefit of last year's injuries was the opportunity provided to junior Hailey Marsh, who proved to be up to the task. The former walk-on started 13 games and had a team-high tying six goals, including three game-winners.
"Hailey was a surprise last season and has continued to improve," shares Manning. "She scored some critical goals for us, including one in the MWC Tournament championship game."
Sophomore Chelsea Card was working her way back into form last year after suffering an ACL injury in high school, but still managed to score five goals. Card had both knees scoped during the recent off-season but is expected to be back by the first game.
"Chelsea had a really good freshman season under trying circumstances," compliments Manning. "She was never quite physically comfortable, yet scored some big goals for us. For a player of her size and strength, she really does a nice job of holding the ball and making nice passes."
Senior Carisse Winegar has played in 39 games with nine starts the last two years, recording five goals and four assists. "Carisse is fast, strong and relentless in her effort," evaluates Manning. "She is someone who can provide a change of pace."
Jen Christoffers is the newcomer to the group. The freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., played for the Olympic Development Program West Region team in 2003 and is a four-time all-state selection. "Jen is fast and explosive with the ball. She's a good scorer and a tireless worker who can wear down the opponent," Manning says.
Sophomore Amanda Sanchez is the returning starter at the holding midfield position, taking over the final 11 games last season when injuries forced Manning to juggle his lineup. Sanchez provides a lot of the qualities Manning is looking for at that position.
"Amanda's distribution and touch on the ball are very good, which is critical," says Manning. "She is also good in the air and is a good tackler."
Manning expects a great second year from Kiley Jones, who started all 22 games last season. The San Clemente, Calif., native was named second team all-Mountain West and made the Soccer Buzz all-West freshman team. She was fourth on the team with four assists.
"Kiley is a two-way player who covers ground well, is always around the ball and is one of the team's top one-on-one defenders," adds Manning. "Offensively she rarely turns the ball over. She does all the little things correctly."
Sophomore Whitney Dorsey started 14 games and played in all 22 last season. Manning expects good improvement from the native of Wheat Ridge, Colo., who had the second-most assists (6) on the team last season. "Whitney is very good on the ball, is one of our best passers and can conduct the offense for us," says Manning.
Emily Campbell, who played in 19 games with six starts as a freshman at defender, is expected to play in the midfield this season. "She is one of the fittest players on the team and gets up and down the field consistently for long stretches of time," evaluates Manning. "Her passing and receiving are improving."
Freshman Katy Reineke, a graduate of Salt Lake City's East High School, was named the 2004 Utah Class 4A Player of the Year and a Top 100 recruit by Soccer Buzz magazine. "Left-sided players are very hard to find," explains Manning. "Left footed and a lethal weapon, Katy can connect short passes and hit as good of a long ball as anyone in our group. She can switch the ball, cross the ball, shoot from long distances and be dangerous, and also hit set pieces."
Paola Marsenaro, a sophomore from Kearns, Utah, joined the Utes as a walk-on last season. "Paola is very good on the ball. She can penetrate a little bit and find the passes," says Manning.
Another in-state product, Danielle Sample of Brighton High School, tore her ACL in April and is a redshirt candidate.
"I think Melissa is ready for a breakout season," Manning predicts. "She has gotten stronger and fitter every year. She is mean and will do whatever it takes not to let you get around her. She's great in the air and also very good on the ball, which allows her to start a counterattack."
Crespo, a Top 50 recruit in 2004 by Soccer Buzz, started 18 games last season and is one of the better passers on the team. "She's a good organizer and a very good header for her size. She wins a lot of balls," adds Manning.
Three years ago, Battazzo was a first team all-Mountain West defender before suffering a major knee injury towards the end of the season. She has since gone through a seemingly endless series of surgeries and rehabilitation, but finally appears ready to contribute this year.
"She looked good in the spring," says Manning with an encouraging tone, "and as the spring season went along her health and effectiveness improved. She is hard go get around, is a good leader and is great in the air."
Battazzo's ability to play significant minutes is the overriding factor that would allow Manning to play Wayman in the midfield. Michelle Deatherage, Tasia Duarte and McKenzie Joyner will hold down the outside back positions. "These three have been quality players for two years already. I expect them only to continue to improve and have a tremendous impact," predicts Manning.
Deatherage has started 39 games the past two years, moving from center back to the outside last season. "Michelle is mean and wants nobody to get by her. Her toughness is contagious," says Manning.
Duarte, who Manning describes as very consistent, started 13 games as a freshman and five of the first eight games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. "She is good on tackles and plays with a good pace," evaluates Manning. "She also does a nice job of getting up the field."
Joyner is coming off a great sophomore year in which she played on the left side for the first time and started 18 games. Manning likes the fact Joyner is two-footed, which allows her to play on both sides of the field. "She's a great passer," says Manning. "She improved a lot in her individual defending and heading last year."
Crespo could also play on the left side and sophomore Emily Campbell, who will be utilized primarily at midfielder, could also contribute in the back row.
"Ashley has been tremendous since her first day on campus," compliments Manning. "She handles balls in the air very well and her foot skills are outstanding. She not only kicks the ball a great distance, but she also has a great touch. She's confident enough and has become such a good leader that I think it's going to raise her game."
Freshman Lynzee Lee, originally from Kallispell, Mont., played her senior year at Alta High School in Utah. She elected to leave her hometown in order to live closer to a club team and play against a higher level of competition. A Soccer Buzz magazine Top 100 recruit, Lee was penciled in to contribute right away before she broke her tibia in June. Lee is expected to be out until mid September.
"Lynzee has all the tools to be an outstanding goalkeeper," explains Manning. "She's strong, fearless, good in the air, has good foot skills and is a good shot stopper."
Amy Edman is battling a knee injury for the second consecutive year and is likely to redshirt. Edman injured one knee as a senior in high school and redshirted last season, then tore the ACL in her other knee in April.
Freshman Emalee Rogers rounds out the group and excites Manning with her potential. Rogers comes from a family of Utah graduates and has gotten to know the coaching staff well through attending the Utah Soccer Academy. "Emalee is a natural athlete with great hands," Manning says. "She is courageous and makes spectacular saves. She has a very good feel for the game."
"Each season the quality of our facility continues to improve dramatically, and this year is no different," says Manning. "Adding lights will greatly enhance the atmosphere at Ute Field, and more fans will be able to get to our games with the more favorable kickoff times. The time, place and product on the field are now there for fans to come and have a great time at Ute Field."
After opening the season with road games at San Francisco (Aug. 26) and Boise State (Aug. 28), Utah begins its home schedule against UVSC on Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. The Utes face four NCAA Tournament teams from last year in Arizona, Pepperdine, UNLV and California, with the Golden Bears coming to Salt Lake City on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m.
"I think the Mountain West Conference race is wide open," says Manning. "At this point, I have to list BYU, San Diego State and Utah as the three favorites. San Diego State is coming off a really good year, and BYU has been too good for too long not to bounce back from last season."