While coaches and players often try to downplay the hype surrounding upcoming contests, no one can accuse Utah women's soccer coach Rich Manning of watering down the significance of tonight's BYU-Utah match, a pairing of the preseason co-favorites in the Mountain West Conference.
Simply put, he bills it as one of the nation's best annually.
"The Utah-BYU game is definitely one of the top five games each year in our sport, when you factor in quality of play, what's at stake, the atmosphere and the emotions it brings out in the communities," Manning said.
"In soccer, when you have a big rivalry game, it is sometimes called a 'super classico.' This match is our 'super classico."'
Today's 7 p.m. match at BYU's South Field has all the "super classico" trappings.
BYU is undefeated; Utah is undefeated in its last 10 matches. Utah features the nation's No. 2 scorer in Adele Letro (14 goals); BYU boasts the No. 10 scorer in Katie Larkin (12 goals). BYU won the first four MWC regular-season and tournament titles; Utah has claimed three of the last four regular-season championships and two of the last four tourney crowns. BYU is ranked as high as No. 14 in the national polls; Utah is receiving votes, ready to break into the Top 25. BYU won the first 12 matches in the overall series, but Utah has won four of the last six meetings.
Back and forth it goes.
"We recognize that Adele is a fantastic forward we need to know where she is on the field at all times," said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood, complimenting a talented Ute attack spotlighted by Letro and Katy Reineke.
"But we have a pretty special forward ourselves," she added of Larkin, who has netted 10 game-winning goals to date.The on-field pairing of note will be how the high-octane Ute offense No. 16 nationally in scoring will fare against a Cougar defense that is in the top five in shutouts, goals against and saves percentage.