Six Utes head home to take on No. 1 Bruins

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- Chris Samuels

Utah will be in Los Angeles this weekend to take on two of the better teams in the Pac-12, No. 1 UCLA and No. 23 USC. For most of the team, it’s just going to be another pair of road games, but for six specific Utes, it will be a chance to return home.
The majority of the team is homegrown in Utah, but there are some players who come from other parts of the country. The second most represented state on the team is California with six Utes hailing from the Golden State — freshman Cabria Turang, sophomore Taylor Slattery, juniors Kaycee Buckley, Lindsey Luke and Nykell Seymour and senior Darby Broeker.
“We’re always really excited to get down there,” said head coach Rich Manning. “Anytime we go somewhere players can go home and play in front of their friends and family is special.”
With the busy life of a student-athlete, players don’t get to head home very often. For some athletes, the chance to return to their home state comes only once a year and can last from a week to a month.
Luke tries to get back twice a year, once for Thanksgiving or Christmas and again some time in May. The trip to California will be extra special for the goalkeeper, as she will get to see her family and old friends while celebrating her 22nd birthday.
Luke doesn’t have anything special planned for her big day because Utah will be playing USC, but she still hopes to celebrate by earning a victory.
“Hopefully we walk away with a win,” Luke said. “That would be a great present.”
It’s not only players who are getting a chance to see family and friends when the Utes hit the road. Manning grew up in Los Angeles and went to school at Santa Clara. He hopes to see some support in favor of Utah from family and friends of his own.
“I’m [from] an Irish family,” Manning said. “A lot of cousins, a lot of aunts and uncles and my parents. We’ll be fine.”
Even though the homecoming will be nice for some of the Utes, there is still business to be taken care of on the field. Utah players from California know the soccer community well and have some connections to the two opponents.
“I have a teammate who plays for UCLA,” Seymour said. “She’s a forward. So her friends and my friends will be there.”
Manning also has ties to UCLA. He and Bruin assistant Joshua Walters used to run camps together when Walters was an assistant at Utah State.
Despite technically being home for some of the team, Manning and the Utes will still be the “bad guys” during games against the Bruins and Trojans.
“Being on the other side when you have friends at those schools that come and watch — it’s a little like that,” Manning said.
Utah will need every bit of support it can get against the top-ranked schools over the weekend. The first game against UCLA is scheduled for kickoff on Friday at 9 p.m. MT.
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