This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One team is entering the playoffs as the lowest seed in the tournament. The other enters its tourney as the top team in the league.
Utah's two semi-professional soccer teams have different perspectives on the postseason, but both feel confident as the playoffs begin today in the Utah Salt Ratz's Men's Premier Soccer League and the Utah Spiders' Women's Premier Soccer League.
Confident underdogs, the Salt Ratz play the Chico Rooks today in California in the first round of the MPSL playoffs. The Ratz survived a regular season full of question marks and earned an 11-5 record, good enough for a fourth-place tie with last season's champion, the Arizona Sahuaros.
A victory today would move the Ratz into the 2-year-old league's championship match for the second straight year. But first, the Ratz must defeat the Rooks, a team they have gone 0-4 against.
"We have some unfinished business," Ratz coach Mike Hickman said.
The presence of Kyle Christensen and K.C. Nordfors strengthens the Ratz's bid against the Rooks. Nordfors has scored five goals in three games, including a hat trick last Saturday against the Idaho Wolves.
"He's been on a bit of a rampage the last couple of weeks," Hickman said. The feeling on the bus trip to California, he said, was cautiously confident.
"[The Rooks] have the edge because we've never beaten them before," Hickman said.
The winner of today's match plays either the Sahuaros or the Albuquerque Asylum in the championship game.
The Spiders, last year's WPSL champion, finished the season 14-1-1 and earned 43 points in the standings, well ahead of the 30 points earned by their semifinal opponent, the New England Mutiny. Still, general manager Mark Drown said the Spiders may not be the favorite.
"We're the little guys on the block," Drown said.
The Mutiny list four former Women's United Soccer Association players on their roster: Frances Monroe, Erin O'Grady, Naomi Stone and Alexa Borisjuk. The Spiders list one WUSA player: former Utah standout Staci Burt.
Burt, however, has made a big difference on the Spiders' defense. Playing with Bernadette Martin, Ashley Wood, Jennie Christiansen and Melissa Wayman on the back line, Burt has helped the Spiders earn the best goals-against average in the league, as they have allowed just five goals in sixteen games.
The Spiders' goalkeeping duo (Melanie Stratford and Ashley Smith) also have been vital.
A victory against the Mutiny would place the Spiders in Sunday's championship match against either the California Storm or the Denver Diamonds.