Utah will take on UVU and Utah State this weekend in last pre-conference games

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— Chris Samuels

With their defeat of BYU, the Utes began their trek for state dominance. This weekend Utah will look to finish it.
The Utes will travel up to Logan on Friday to take on Utah State, before concluding their weekend with a home game against UVU on Sunday.
“I’m just excited for this weekend,” said junior Baylee Nielsen. “Our coach called it the World Cup, because it’s going to be a big weekend. It’s going to prove who the best team in Utah is for sure.”
The Aggies appear to be the tougher opponent for Utah, especially since the Utes will be playing in front of a hostile crowd. Cache Valley hasn’t treated Utah very well lately, seeing as it’s been seven years since the Utes last won a game in Logan. Manning thinks his team needs to pay attention to the details of the game if they hope to come away with a victory.
“They’re going to put great pressure on us, defensively, on our offense,” Manning said. “We’re going to have to try and make plays and keep the ball under tremendous pressure.”
Though the Utes have struggled to dispatch the Aggies in Logan as of late, they have been dominant over the Wolverines. Utah has yet to drop a game to UVU, and with the Utes’ current unbeaten streak at home, it seems unlikely UVU will produce an upset.
The Wolverines and the Utes have faced two common opponents this season — Boise State and UNLV. UVU tied the Broncos and defeated UNLV, while Utah beat Boise but was only able to produce a tie against the Rebels.
Manning doesn’t expect either game to be an easy one and predicts he will see two very different games this weekend.
“We know when we play Utah State that it’s going to be a physical, passionate game,” Manning said. “Utah Valley probably has a more finesse style, but they are really good at it. You’re going to see that same passion come out in a different way. They are all intense in different ways. The level of soccer in Utah has gotten better. They both improved tremendously.”
Even with the Utes win over the Cougars, both the Aggies and Wolverines want to prove they are the top team in the state. Utah being a member of the Pac-12 adds to the significance for both Utah State and UVU.
“Moving to the Mountain West for Utah State and moving to the WAC for Utah Valley has been great for them,” Manning said. “So the games have become even more intense as everybody has gotten better.”
The players know what is at stake as well.
“In-state teams are always big games, sometimes I don’t really consider them rivals, but they are always big games,” Nielsen said. “Especially because as a Pac-12 school in Utah, we have a big target on our back.”
The two in-state games are also Utah’s last contests before conference play begins next weekend. This weekend will be Manning’s last chance to see his team compete and make adjustments before beginning the Pac-12 gauntlet.
“We’ve got to score some goals,” Manning said. “We need some attacking players that want to score some goals and that are going to make plays.”
Players are also getting excited for conference play to start. Nielsen is trying to not look past this weekend but can’t help it sometimes.
“I’m done with preseason, and I’m ready to go to conference,” Nielsen said.
No matter who the Utes are playing, Manning always has the same thing in mind — try and get to the NCAA tournament.
“Three points in every game,” Manning said. “Win the game — it doesn’t matter how. Every game is going to be close, but they will probably have different rhythms based on the different styles of the opponent. All that matters is that we do what it takes to win the game.”
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