Rivalries aren’t just about hate or extreme dislike. It’s also about attention. When the “other school” loses to someone, the rival knows about it. Not only that, but they don’t forget it, either.
So rest assured nationally ranked Arizona baseball is well aware of how dangerous Utah Valley can be. They know the Wolverines gave their rival, Arizona State, an unexpected 9-6 defeat in Tempe, Ariz., less than three weeks ago.
Having been raised in Arizona, I know there had to be some ribbing going on – which disappeared as soon as the Wildcats realized UVU was also on their schedule.
Both Grand Canyon State universities are annual baseball powerhouses. Both were nationally ranked heading into the weekend, Arizona at No. 15, ASU at No. 17.
Then again, the Arizona coaching staff likely already respects UVU’s program. Indeed, they wouldn’t have scheduled their game in Orem if they didn’t. Credit the Wolverines for earning that respect. Seventy-four wins in two years will do that.
Now the Wolverines need to cash in on that respect. Inviting power programs to play, only to get creamed in front of your home fans will only get them so far. Fans will only accept so many consolation prizes, so many at-least-we-got-to-play-them’s before the wonder starts to wear off.
Make no mistake, it will wear off if UVU sports keeps losing the precious few marquee matchups it earns. Granted, earning them in the first place is an achievement for this school. Fans attending the home wrestling match against defending national champion Penn State cheered every time UVU did something good.
It’s the final score, however, that leaves the biggest impression. Here are a few from big-name home games this season:
Wrestling vs. No. 2 Penn State – 39-3, L
Volleyball vs. No. 24 Michigan – 3-0, L
M. Basketball vs. Wyoming – 76-70, L
W. Soccer vs. Miami – 4-1, L
Utah Valley wants to be seen as a legit NCAA program, considered on the same playing field as the Arizonas, UCLAs and BYUs of the world. In a literal sense, they already are.
In order to be considered equals to their peers, UVU has to beat them to join them. UVU has a chance on Wednesday. Where it matters. In front of those who matter.
If baseball comes away with the win, maybe will start to matter back.
By Matt Petersen