<strong>LOGAN—</strong> In front of a packed Chuck and Gloria Bell Stadium, the Utah State soccer team opened the 2012 season with an exhibition match against Southern Utah University. The Aggies shut out the Thunderbirds and sealed their 1-0 win with a second half goal.
“One of our things that our team takes pride in is protecting our home field and that is one of the things they had in their minds,” Utah State head coach Heather Cairns said.
The Aggies started a young team after graduating four seniors at the end of last season’s record setting run. USU won both the Western Athletic Conference regular season and WAC championship titles and was looking to fill the shoes of starters Chantel Flanary and Summer Tillotson.
“We have a ton of depth this year,” Utah State Junior Jennifer Flynn said. “We have a lot new players on our team, so we’re trying to work them in to our formation. It was good to get our freshmen some experience and get us moving again.”
The Aggies are running a 4-2-3-1 formation with three dropping forwards. It is a formation they started last year but adding 11 players in to it has been tough.
“We have a really tough formation so it’s hard to get a lot of people to learn it,” Flynn said. “They did really well pressuring when they were supposed to pressure dropping when they were supposed to drop.”
Utah State started two freshmen and rotated many more in throughout the game. Cairns said she liked what she saw from her program’s young staff.
“Our team is a lot different but I think they responded really well,” Cairns said. “The first half was a bit choppy we were a little nervous but in the second half we did really well.”
The Aggie veterans got in on the action too. Sophomore forward Kendra Pemberton scored the Aggies only goal with a shot off a pass from Flynn. Pemberton anchored the offense with three good scoring opportunities.
Utah State had a lot of scoring opportunities in the first half, but struggled to finish them off. They outshot SUU 15-2.
“We haven’t really been working on finishing in practice so it’s kind of rusty.” Pemberton said. “We haven’t taken a lot of shots and I think a little bit of it was nerves.”
Flynn expressed her personal frustration with the scoring chances.
“I felt pretty good up until the last part of each play, I couldn’t quite get the crosses off or get the shot, but I thought the build-up was good and it’s easy to do that with a team like mine who is ready to give you the ball when you ask for it.”
The Aggies played better defensively in the second half holding the thunderbirds to just one shot in the half.
“We tightened things up defensively in the second, we looked a lot sharper,” Cairns said. “In the first they got in on us a couple times so we fixed that.”
The Aggies will open the regular season next Friday against the University of Utah at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City.