SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah soccer team is getting ready for their 2019 season, and they are looking to improve even more than last year.
In 2018, the Utes finished fourth in the Pac-12, five spots higher than they were originally polled to finish, their second highest finish ever. The Utes had a four-game conference shutout streak, which was the longest shutout streak since 2006.
The Utes have 20 returning players on their roster and have the talent and forward momentum to succeed after going 9-8-2 last season.
“I just want to keep the momentum going from last season and build not only a stronger team, but stronger connections within the team,” said sophomore defender Brooklyn James. “I think this year everyone feels so much closer, and the team feels so much more connected and together. I think that can help us a lot and we can go really far with just the family aspect of the team.”
Two new faces will be assisting the Utes from the sidelines with coaches Allie Wisner and Devin Zimmerman. Wisner, an alumni of the soccer program who started for four years and was a two-year team captain from 2011-14, will be stepping into the role of assistant coach.
Wisner has spent her time since graduation traveling the world and playing soccer. She played professionally in Europe with teams in Belgium and Germany and then returned to the United States to play with the Seattle Reign, Kansas City FC, as well as the Orlando Pride.
Zimmerman has been coaching since 2016 where he started out with Southern Virginia University. He will be working with the goalkeepers, a position that he is familiar with after playing both at the collegiate and professional levels.
Zimmerman spent time with the Portland Timbers and the Ogden Outlaws in the USL as a player. He also coached at the collegiate level at Weber State and Southern Virginia University.
The Utes are looking to capitalize on their experience this season after ending 2018 on a historic note. In their final game last year, Utah beat Colorado on the road for the first time since the two teams started playing each other. It was the first Top-25 win the Utes have claimed since 2007.
“I think the end of our season last year just gave us a snippet of the ability we have and how great we can be,” sophomore midfielder Haley Farrar said. “I think what is really motivating us for this season is we got a little taste of success, and it’s just fueling our fire to keep that going for this year.”
The team hasn’t seen NCAA Tournament play since 2016 when they made it to the third round of the tournament.
The Utes have a number of returning players, including seven players who were members of the 2016 squad. Two of these players, Ireland Dunn and Carly Nelson, are starters on the team today.
Nelson rocked the Pac-12 last year as a goalkeeper as she led the league with eight total shutouts. She was first in the conference with 92 saves and six conference shutouts. Nelson averaged 4.84 saves per game and had a .821 save percentage, which was the fourth best in the league. She was named Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week two times.
Dunn had a successful junior year as she was second on the team with 15 points and seven assists. She scored her first four collegiate goals during the season and had a total of 19 shots on goal.
Hailey Stodden is coming into her second year with the team. As a freshman, she was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. She played in and started in all 19 games. Stodden totaled three points and scored her first and only goal of the 2018 season in Utah’s final game, a 1-0 win at Colorado.
“I’m looking forward to building off of last season because I feel like we ended super strong,” Stodden said. “Being able to continue that this year and knowing that we have a lot of goals set for ourselves and being able to attack them. … What I’m most excited for is seeing what we can accomplish.”
The Utes will kick off their 2019 season on Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. MDT in South Carolina against Clemson.