Published May 31, 2023
Written By:  Andrew Mosier | WPSL Correspondent


One step at a time.

That is how the Utah Avalanche is approaching its quest for a second consecutive Wasatch Division title and it took a huge step toward that goal Saturday, thumping rival La Roca FC 6-2, in the re-match between the top two teams in the division from 2022.

“It’s starting to come together,” Jimmie Powell, Avalanche coach, said. “There are some really good teams in the league, so hopefully we can put together six or seven more solid games and get back to the conference championship.”

The match was the second in a weather-delayed Wasatch Double header at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City on Saturday. In the day’s opening match, the Utah Surf topped the Utah Red Devils 4-0.

The emphatic win put the Avalanche (2-0-0, six points) three points clear of second place Utah Surf (1-1-0, three points). Seven Castain’s two goals were bookended goals by Casey Crawford, Bella Devey, Kelly Bullock, and Daviana Vaka.

Photo By: Andrew Mosier

Kate Howes and Ellie Walbruch scored for La Rocca (1-1-0, three points), which fell to third in the Wasatch Division standings with a minus-three goal differential.

Castain (Texas Christian University) led the Avalanche in 2022 with four goals. With three already, she is well on her way to surpassing her 2022 mark. Her first goal on the season came in a 2-0 win versus the Utah Surf. Veteran playmaker, Collette Smith, also score in Avalanche’s opening-match win.

“This was our first game with nearly the entire group together,” Powell said. “Pretty much everyone has played together, so it is not all that difficult getting everyone on the same page.”

The weather in the area that delayed the first match created sometimes near gale-force winds for the Avalanche and La Roca. With the wind at its back, La Roca’s Howes (University of Portland) capitalized on some careless Avalanche passing in the backfield to finish from just inside the penalty area to the far post.

La Roca’s lead lasted five minutes. Castain leveled things in the 8’ minute off a pass from Kelly Bullock. Moments later, Walbruch (UCLA) nearly put La Roca in the lead again by driving a knuckling freekick, aided by the gusting wind, off the crossbar from beyond 35 yards from the goal.

As the weather began to clear the Avalanche took control of the game. Crawford (University of Nevada) slammed home the rebound off La Roca goalkeeper Cadence Rutledge (University of Portland) in the 32’ minute.

Photo By: Andrew Mosier

Three minutes later Devey, a 16-year-old Avalanche youth product playing in her first WPSL match, put the Avalanche up 3-1 after beating her defender off the dribble at the top of the box, driving a left-footed shot to the far post.

“Bella did a wonderful job in her first game for us,” Powell said. “She is one of our young players. She showed she can play at this level.”

Bullock (University of Utah) made it 4-1 Avalanche with five minutes to play in the first half, capitalizing on the Avalanche’s relentless pressure, by dispossessing a defender of the ball near the penalty area. After a touch inside, she tucked the ball into Rutledge’s near post.

Vaka (Brigham Young University) made it 5-1 just before the halftime whistle after La Roca could only partially clear an Avalanche set-piece two minutes into added time.

Castain bagged her second on the day in the 57’ minute off a pass from WPSL veteran, Colette Smith, who dictated the Avalanche attack from her central position.

“Colette had an excellent game,” Powell said. “She always stands out.”

Walbruch pulled one back for La Roca with just over half an hour to play, making it 6-2, off a well-placed free kick from 25 yards out in the.

The Avalanche is in action again Saturday, June 3 for the return match at Utah Surf (1-1-0) while La Roca travels to face the Utah Red Devils (0-1-0) Friday, June 2.

The second match between the Avalanche and La Roca, Saturday, June 24, will close out the regular season for both clubs. The winner of the Wasatch Division will move on to face the winner of the six-team Rockies Division for the Mountain Conference championship. The Avalanche fell 5-1 in the 2022 Mountain Conference final to eventual WPSL runners-up, Colorado Rapids Women.