ON THE PITCH
Utah State soccer (2-0-0) continues its 2017 season this week with a pair of matches as its plays at in-state rival No. 18 Utah (1-0-0) on Thursday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 p.m., followed by a home game against Cal State Fullerton (2-0-0) on Sunday, Aug. 27, at 1 p.m.
Thursday’s match at Utah will be available to watch through the Utah Live Stream, while live stats will be provided through StatBroadcast. All regular-season home and Mountain West matches will continue to be broadcast as a USU Athletics Production on the Mountain West Network. All video feeds will be available live and in archive form at utahstateaggies.tv. Live stats and play-by-play information will be available through GameTracker, while updates will also be provided through the team’s social media outlets. Links to each option will be available online prior to every match.
Utah enters Thursday’s match with a 1-0-0 record, having opened its season last Sunday in a 4-1 win over South Dakota State. The Utes return eight starters, including the entire backline, from last season’s roster. Among returning players for Utah is junior forward Hailey Skolmoski, who finished the 2016 campaign with 13 goals. She scored two of the team’s four goals against the Jackrabbits. In the net, sophomore Carly Nelson got the start on Sunday, tallying four saves. Rich Manning is in his 16th season as the head coach at Utah, where he has a 167-107-41 record.
Prior to the season-opener, Utah played a road exhibition match at Weber State, where it defeated the Wildcats, 3-0. All-time, Utah State is 5-14 against the Utes. Last season, Utah took the win in Logan, 3-0. The Aggies’ last win over Utah came in 2015, defeating the Utes, 2-0, in Salt Lake City.
SCOUTING CAL STATE FULLERTON
After the quick trip to Salt Lake City, Utah State will return home to host Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. The Titans, who also have a 2-0-0 record, will play at No. 17 BYU on Friday before the match in Logan. Cal State Fullerton returns all but one starter to its roster this season, along with 15 additional letterwinners. So far, senior forward Sarah Fajnor leads the Titan offense with two goals. Senior Morgan Bertsch has played the entirety of both matches in the net, tallying three saves and allowing one goal. Demian Brown is in his 11th season as the head coach of the Titan program, where he has compiled a record of 94-85-26.
Former Big West conference foes, the series between Utah State and Cal State Fullerton dates back to 1996. The Titans hold the slight advantage in the series, as the Aggies trail, 5-6-1. Sunday is the second match of a home-and-home agreement, as Utah State traveled to Fullerton a year ago, where, the Aggies defeated the Titans, 1-0.
A FAMILIAR FOE
Through Utah State’s 21 seasons as a program, the Aggies have faced Utah on the pitch more than any other opponent. The Aggies and Utes have met 19 times previously, with Utah leading the series, 14-5. Behind Utah, USU’s most-played opponents are Boise State (18), Weber State (17), Idaho (16) and Nevada (16).
AGAINST THE RANKS
With Thursday’s trip to Salt Lake City, the Aggies are looking for the program’s first-ever win against a nationally-ranked team. According to available records, Utah State is 0-12-2 all-time against Top 25 teams. This is the eighth-straight season that Utah State will face at least one top-ranked opponent. Utah State has faced teams ranked as high as No. 2, playing at Oklahoma State in 2011, dropping the match, 3-0. BYU was also ranked second nationally when the Aggies played there in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, falling to the Cougars, 2-1.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
Both the Utah State and Utah programs have made in-state recruiting a priority, as more than half of each team is made up of Utah players. With that, there will be familiar faces on both sides of the pitch for these teams, as several players have played together and against each other at the high school and club levels. Combined, Utah State and Utah roster members attended 20 high schools throughout the Beehive State, and played for five different club organizations.
AROUND THE BEEHIVE STATE
Thursday is the only official match against an in-state opponent for the Aggies this season. All-time, Utah State is 22-35-2 against the five other Division I soccer programs in the state of Utah. Last season, the Aggies dropped home contests to both Utah and BYU, but defeated Southern Utah in exhibition play.
After seeing time in just two matches in the previous years of her career, senior goalkeeper Sara Cobb had a strong season-opening weekend. She made her first-career start against South Dakota State, keeping the spot against Montana. Cobb led the Aggies to shutouts in the first two matches of the season, the first full shutouts of her career. Cobb is one of 24 players to record two shutouts on the year and one of 79 goalkeepers nationally to have not given up a goal yet this season.
Freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo is currently leading the nation in game-winning goals, with two. One of just seven players with multiple game-winners thus far, Cardozo is the only underclassman on the list, joining five seniors and one junior. Additionally, Cardozo is the first freshman in program history to record game-winning goals in back-to-back matches. She is the first USU player to do so since Ambryn McCallson recorded the game-winners against Wyoming and Colorado State (Oct. 3 and 5) in 2014.
BEST OF THE MOUNTAIN WEST
Senior goalkeeper Sara Cobb earned Utah State’s first Mountain West Player of the Week award for the 2017 season, as she was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. Cobb helped Utah State to a pair of shutout wins last weekend, as the Aggies defeated South Dakota State, 1-0, in double overtime, and topped Montana, 2-0. Cobb made her first-career start against the Jackrabbits, and recorded the first full shutout of her career. She recorded three saves against South Dakota State, topping that with a career-best five against Montana.
HAPPY AT HOME
With its perfect opening weekend last week, Utah State continued its strong performance at Chuck & Gloria Bell Field. Last season, the Aggies 7-2 in matches played at home, including a perfect record against Mountain West opponents, to secure its 14th-straight winning record at home. The Aggies have played at Chuck & Gloria Bell Field since 2002, where they have posted an all-time record of 86-30-20.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Utah State has added nine newcomers to the roster this season with eight freshmen and one transfer. Of the nine new faces, eight hail from the state of Utah, in junior transfer Megan Bolding (Salt Lake City, Utah/Highland HS/Westminster), Ashley Cardozo (Holladay, Utah/Olympus HS), Ashley Hughes (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills HS), Amber Marshall (Syracuse, Utah/Clearfield HS), Sadie Mertlich (South Jordan, Utah/Alta HS), Kartsyn Peterson (West Haven, Utah/Fremont HS) and Kami Warner (Springville, Utah/Springville HS). Utah State also adds a player from Nevada in Taylor Garza (Henderson, Nev./Liberty HS).
Among the names on the Utah State roster this season is a pair of sisters, senior forward Rachelle (Warner) Parrish and freshman midfielder Kami Warner. Throughout the history of the USU program, there have been nine sets of sisters, while six of those have played at least one season together. Among those, current senior forward Wesley Hamblin played with her older sister, Maris, in 2014.
WHAT WE PLAY FOR
As the winners of the 2016 Mountain West title, UNLV will host the 2017 Mountain West Championships. The tournament will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 31, continuing with semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 2, and the championship match on Saturday, Nov. 4. Only the top six teams in the Mountain West standings will advance to the conference tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Utah State was picked fourth in the Mountain West Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Aggies earned 97 points in this season’s poll, along with one first-place vote. Last season, Utah State finished tied for third in the final standings with a 7-4-0 conference record. San Diego State was picked as the favorite to win the league for the fifth year in a row, tallying 110 total points and three first-place votes.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Utah State posted a 2-0 home record last week, defeating South Dakota State (1-0) in double overtime, and Montana (2-0). Against the Jackrabbits, freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo scored the golden goal in the 102nd minute of play, assisted by senior forward Wesley Hamblin. Cardozo’s success carried over to Sunday, where she scored the game-winning goal against the Grizzlies with a goal in the 64th minute, assisted by sophomore defender Brinley Adams. Senior forward Bailee Hammond added a security goal in the 68th minute of the match, with an assist from freshman midfielder Amber Marshall. On the week, Utah State took 21 shots with 10 on goal, while the Aggie’s opponents combined for 19 shots, eight of which were on goal. Senior goalkeeper Sara Cobb played the entirety of both matches, earning her first-career shutouts tallying eight saves.
Utah State will open a six-match road swing next week, as it heads across the border to play at Idaho State. The Aggies and Bengals will meet on Friday, Sept. 1, at 4 p.m.
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