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Kicking and scoring — Ute star Letro has been scoring goals at a record pace

Adele Letro has been scoring at the most prolific pace in University of Utah soccer history as well as in Mountain West Conference history. She also ranks second in the nation in both goals scored and overall scoring (goals plus assists).

No wonder the Utes are having another stellar season and haven't lost a game in more than a month.

Letro has scored 13 goals in just 11 games this year and has 28 points overall. During September, she scored 12 of her goals, including at least one in eight of the nine games. For her outstanding play, she is the Deseret Morning News Athlete of the Month.

"She's on a roll right now," said Ute coach Rich Manning. "I honestly feel like if she gets a chance, it's going in the net."

Letro is a junior from Davis, Calif., near Sacramento, and she's been scoring nearly at will this year with more goals with a month left in the season than she had all last year, when she earned second-team all-America honors.

"The thing that's really been outstanding has been her conversion rate," said Manning. "It's off the charts. When she gets a chance, it's going in the net or the keeper's going to make a great save."

Letro has an astounding .382 shot percentage, which is akin to a batter hitting over .500 in baseball. The rest of the Ute team averages only .089, while Ute opponents average just .126. Florida State's Mami Yamaguchi, who leads the nation in scoring and points, has a shot percentage that is considerably less than Letro's at .286

So what makes Letro such an outstanding scorer?

"Her ability to run off the ball has always been superior," said Manning. "She knows where to run and has great timing. She's always been a great finisher."

If you ask Letro, she immediately deflects the attention to her teammates.

"The difference this year is that we have a lot of attacking players and have an offensive-minded group," Letro said. "I've been getting a lot of breakaways because my teammates have been passing me 'through' balls, so that makes it easier."

She credits sophomore Kelly Isleib, who leads the nation in assists with 10, and freshmen Lauren Hair and Erin Dalley with making her job easier because of their great passes.

Letro began playing soccer in California at age 5 on coed teams, and by the time she was a teenager, she was one of the top players in her age group in the country.

From the start, she was a forward who scored most of her team's goals.

"It's definitely in my blood," she said. "I've been a forward my whole life."

She came to Utah in 2003, mainly because of Manning, who coached her on the West Region Olympic Development team when he was an assistant coach at Santa Clara.

Letro enrolled late the first year as an academic non-qualifier, then missed the next year when she tore the ACL in her left knee.

It took months of rehabilitation, and even when she finally got on the field in 2005, she wasn't 100 percent. Still, she led the team in scoring with seven goals and six assists and was named all-conference as well as MWC freshman of the year.

Last year she was named MWC offensive player of the year and also earned NSCAA/adidas second-team all-American honors, becoming the first all-American in the 12-year history of Utah soccer. She ranked first in the MWC in points (27) and goals (12), two numbers she's already surpassed this year.

The surprising thing is, Letro hasn't even been at full strength over the past two weeks because of a nagging injury to her right quadricep, yet she continues to score.

She originally hurt her leg in practice, then aggravated it in the game at Pepperdine two weeks ago. Against Boise State on Sept. 30, she only played for 20 of the 90 minutes but still got a goal in the 21st minute to put the Utes ahead to stay in a 3-1 victory.

She sat out last week during a 6-0 victory at Utah Valley, where she certainly could have added to her season total. On Saturday at Utah State, she played less than half the game but picked up another goal.

"The first chance she had, she got a goal," Manning said.

Letro already has the third most goals in Utah history for a season. She's three back of Amy Kofoed's total in 2000 and has a good chance of surpassing the season record of 20 set by Jacki Doman in 1996.

With 31 for her career and a season and a half left, she has an excellent chance to break Kofoed's career goals-scored record of 46 and her MWC mark of 41 (Kofoed didn't play in the league as a freshman).

When she's not pounding balls into the back of the net, Letro enjoys playing the guitar or painting water colors. She's a communications and technology major and would love to play professionally for a few years before settling down, perhaps to a real-estate career.

The Utes open Mountain West Conference play Thursday afternoon (4 p.m.) at UNLV. Then on Saturday, the Utes will play BYU in Provo at 7 p.m.

It won't be easy, but you can bet both opponents will be doing their darndest to keep Letro from adding to her growing goal collection.

Adele Letro file

Scored 12 goals in September

Ranks second in the nation in scoring with 13 goals in 11 games

Has an excellent shot percentage of .386

Led Utah to five wins and two ties after two early losses in September


E-mail: sor@desnews.com