A test of endurance

— Chris Samuels

Soccer is known to be a high-endurance sport, as games last 90 minutes with players constantly running to get to the ball.
This weekend, Utah will have to test its endurance as it has to play two games in the span of three days. The first match, against UNLV, will take place at Ute Field on Friday evening. The next day, the Utes will hit the road to travel to California to take on UC Davis on Sunday.
“You have to mentally prepare for it,” sophomore defender Audrey Gibb said. “It’s a big deal because you have two games within 72 hours. We are really lucky because our athletic training staff makes sure that we are hydrated, eating right and recovering well. They put us through all different exercises between the games to make sure that we’re as best fit and ready for the following game.”
Head coach Rich Manning and the rest of his coaching staff will keep an eye on the endurance levels of the players and assess when, or if, substitutions need to be made. Manning knows the second game of a weekend might not be as fast-paced as the first, but he still expects his team to compete.
Manning was also grateful for only having one game last weekend because some of his players were in the “Red Zone” — meaning the players were more exhausted than normal. He gave the team last Saturday and Sunday off in order to help them recuperate in preparation for this week’s practice and upcoming games.
The Utes have a strong record against UNLV, only losing four times in 18 matches against the Rebels. Even though every game matters to the team, Manning might look to take the opportunity to give some players who haven’t had much playing time this season a chance to step on the field.
“One of the focuses that we have is trying to get players ready to play for conference,” Manning said. “We have two more weeks prior to the Stanford game, and I think it will be important to get some people some time. It’s not the main focus, but it will be part of what we are doing.”
When Utah squared off against UC Davis last season, the game ended in a 2-2 draw, thanks to then-sophomore Ali Allen. The Aggies, however, are coming off of two losses in their games last weekend against Air Force and Southeast Missouri.
Manning hopes to use what he saw last season against UC Davis to help his team come away with a win this time around.
“Having played them last year will really help us know what kind of game we’re going to see,” Manning said. “We were disappointed in the draw last year. Let’s kind of atone for that.”
Despite garnering a big win against in-state rival BYU last weekend, that was the only game Utah had the chance to compete in. Although there weren’t many chances to have gameplay the last seven days, Manning was still able to find areas that needed work.
“Even though we were under a lot of pressure, we were still able to move the ball,” Manning said. “So we want to keep emphasizing that. Then, always, goal-scoring, getting in front of the goal and finishing. I think we can improve our defending and front two rows.”
Utah’s game on Friday against UNLV will be the team’s blackout game with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT.
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