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Mike Sorensen: Freshman goalie leads Utes into Pac-12 play

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SALT LAKE CITY — Lindsey Luke was riding the stationary bycycle on the sideline and wasn't even in full uniform when the unexpected call came. It happened early in the BYU game last month when Utah's starting goalkeeper Cheyanne Mulcock had to leave the game with an injury.

Just like that, Luke was thrown into action for the first time as a member of the Ute women's soccer team. The 19-year-old from Corona Del Mar, Calif., ended up making six saves to preserve a 1-0 victory and ever since she's been a mainstay on a Ute team off to its best start in seven years.

Luke has allowed just five goals in seven games and until last week's Pac-12 opener at Oregon State, hadn't lost a game in goal yet.

This week she'll be in goal as the Utes play the first of five straight home games Friday at 1 p.m. against Washington State. On Sunday, the Utes will face the University of Washington, which has been ranked in the top 25 for much of the season.

Ute coach Rich Manning had planned to bring Luke along slowly after she transferred from Wake Forest earlier this year. But when Mulcock injured her knee after a collision early in the BYU game, he didn't hesitate to call on Luke.

"The way she got in the first game really helped because she didn't have time to think about it," says Manning. "She hadn't trained in eight days, she had a bad ankle, she was on the bike, didn't have her uniform. … Then when Chey got hurt, we threw her in the game and she played great."

Already Luke ranks high in the Pac-12 goalkeeper stats and is 38th in the nation in goals against average at .686 and 45th in save percentage.

The effervescent Luke isn't your typical goalie, at just 5-foot-7 with what Manning calls "bird legs." But she makes up for her lack of stature with her quickness, ball skills and confident attitude.

"She has a lot of confidence and she's not afraid of the moment," says Manning, who points out Luke played in a lot of big games as a junior player in California. "She doesn't look it, but she's really quick and her foot skills are fantastic."

Luke smiles when she thinks back to her Utah debut in late August against a BYU team that is now ranked No. 9 in the nation with its lone loss coming to Utah.

"The BYU game, that was epic," Luke said. "I'm from out of state, but I know it's a huge rivalry, and to be a part of that was amazing, whether I was on the bench or on the field."

As for her saves, including a big one in each half, she says, "I was in the right place at the right time."

That's another quality the bubbly Luke has — humility.

Ask her what makes a great goalkeeper and she talks all about her teammates and coaches and all the support they give her. Finally, when pressed about her abilities, she says, "I'm not super tall, so I try to make up for it with my reaction time and explosiveness. My dad always says 'jump out of your shoes.' "

Luke was a top goalie in Southern California and had her pick of schools to attend. Besides Wake Forest, a Final Four team a year ago, she was recruited by other Pac-12 schools, including USC and Washington.

But things didn't work out as planned at Wake Forest, so Luke was happy to come to Utah, where she had lived briefly as a youngster when her parents had a house in Cottonwood Heights.

"I absolutely love the city, the school, the program, everything about it," she says.

"When I was looking at a school when I was going to transfer, I really liked Salt Lake City. (Wake Forest) is a great school, it was nice to get that experience, but at the end of the day, I felt the U. was the better fit for me."

An art major, Luke enjoys drawing and in the winter she loves to snowboard. Back home it is spending time on the beach. Otherwise, she likes to hang out with her teammates and "laugh until my stomach hurts."

After this weekend's home games, the 5-2-2 Utes play No. 2-ranked Stanford next week (Oct. 5) at Ute Field, and California two days later, followed by a home game against Oregon the following week.

email: sor@desnews.com