After suffering two road losses over the weekend against Washington and Washington State, the University of Utah soccer team (5-4-2 overall, 0-2-1 Pac-12) will be back in action on its own field on Thursday, Oct. 5 as it faces the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal.
The Utes were shutout against both the Huskies, 2-0, and the Trojans, 3-0. Goalkeeper Carly Nelson said it wasn’t fun experiencing those tough losses, but they were positive learning experiences for her team.
“We saw where we need to be and what to work on,” Nelson said. “We are at our lowest point, so we might as well just go up and continue to regroup.”
Several of the players did not participate in the games because they were dealing with flu-like symptoms. Nelson said she could feel the difference it made in the game, as not all of her teammates were able to see playing time, but that the matches ultimately came down to mental toughness.
Despite the situation Utah found itself in, head coach Rich Manning thought his team did enough positive things throughout its match against Washington State that it was a disappointment to not win the game. Players on the field dug in and pulled through in the center of the field, but in both penalty boxes, the Utes didn’t do enough to win the game.
“It was a challenging trip physically, and we probably had seven girls not feeling their best at various stages of the weekend,” Manning said. “I was proud of the few who were able to play a little bit. A couple just couldn’t play and that was a bummer, but the team just needs to play better.”
Manning said a few more of his athletes have gotten sick as they’ve been preparing for Stanford, but he added that it’s just one of those things that he and his team need to work through. Manning will assess the players’ level of sickness on game day, and he will create the game plan from there.
Looking at Stanford’s team this year, Manning has been impressed. He said it looks to be one of the best teams the program has had in years.
“We are excited to host them, and we have had some really good results against those teams on the Ute field,” Manning said. “I’m excited to see how the team plays against another really good team.”
Manning said there are still some things his team needs to fix if it wants to walk away with its first Pac-12 win of the season on Thursday. Right now, Utah is focused on the plays and moments that take place in front of the penalty boxes. The Utes have struggled to defend their own goal and attack the other team’s goal, and Manning wants to see better results. For Nelson, she wants to see Utah find success in the back of the net early and often.
“We need to win the first and second ball and just connect,” Nelson said. “We just need to play our game and relax. Stanford is just a name, so we don’t need to stress. [We] just [need to] play the way we know.”
First touch is at 5 p.m. MT.