HERRIMAN—The Utah Royals crossed another “first” off their list Saturday as they went up against an opponent.
In a closed-to-the-public scrimmage at Zions Bank Real Academy with owner Dell Loy Hansen on hand, the Royals, who are training without a good chunk of their roster thanks to international duty and injuries, topped the typically strong BYU women’s soccer team 1-0 thanks to a goal in the 19th minute from midfielder Alexa Newfield.
“I think it’s always good to play college teams, because the one thing that you know, they’re going to be is fit,” said Royals head coach Laura Harvey, noting that this was the first real competition some of her players have had since last October. “They’re going to be athletic, they train all year round, so you know when you play, especially against good teams like BYU, that they’re going to match you physically.”
Despite the close final score, both Harvey and Cougars head coach Jennifer Rockwood noted that Utah was stronger overall, with Rockwood pointing to the Royals’ offensive play and Harvey proud of the way her team defended (official stats weren’t kept), as that’s been their focus through the first two weeks of the preseason.
“I think tonight was a good example of some of the things we’ve been working on that we’ve put into place,” Harvey said. “We haven’t really spoken too much on the attacking side, just on the defending side, so to come away with a clean sheet was obviously a positive.”
From Rockwood’s perspective, playing the Royals offered her team a unique experience as it opens up spring competition following a fall season in which it went 7-8-4.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “What a great opportunity for our program and our team to come play a professional team. You don’t get those chances very often.”
As for the goal, Utah used some solid passing to shift the defense and get Newfield open on the back side, and she delivered a strike home.
“It was good to get that first run out of our legs and for the lungs,” she said. “It’s always hard playing the first 120-yard match, especially with most of us not used to the altitude yet.”
Moving forward, Harvey wants to focus more on making sure her players’ fitness is at a better level, along with working more on offensive concepts.
“I think preseason, I always use the word ‘progress,’ and I think that’s all we can ask to do right now,” she said. “Obviously it’s a weird time because we have so many players who aren’t here for international duty and then obviously we have a few injuries, but I think overall, all I’ve asked of the players is to get better every day, and I think they’re doing that.”
The Royals will train next week at the academy before spending a week in Southern California. They open the regular season March 24 on the road against the Orlando Pride. After a second road game March 30 against the Houston Dash, their home opener is April 14 versus the Chicago Red Stars at Rio Tinto Stadium.