Soccer begins MWC play with Aztecs

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    By Brandon Smith

    Coming off a 1-0 win at Eastern Washington on Saturday, the BYU women”s soccer team returns home to start Mountain West Conference play as they take on San Diego State today at 7 p.m. at South Stadium.

    BYU (4-7-2) will look to avenge a 1-0 loss they suffered to the Aztecs last year in San Diego. As far as the Cougars are concerned, San Diego State has been about as pleasant as Hurricane Jeanne, defeating BYU more than any other team in the NCAA.

    “San Diego State always plays us tough,” BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “Every team in the conference is always a challenge.”

    The Aztecs (3-6-3) are coming off a loss to Pac-10 powerhouse Washington. The Huskies, ranked No. 3 in the nation, downed San Diego State 1-0 on Sunday.

    “We played well against them [Washington] and got some good looks at the end,” San Diego State head coach Michael Giuliano said. “We”re just trying to figure out a way to score goals.”

    The Aztecs have struggled offensively this season, producing a meager eight goals. The situation is so bad that their leading scorer, Alexis Solovij, is a defender.

    “We”re not discouraged yet,” Giuliano said. “We still have great team chemistry. At the same time, we know BYU is a team that works incredibly hard. They have some strong central forward players.”

    Senior goalkeeper Sophia Perez leads the Aztecs on defense. Perez, who redshirted last year, has a 0.86 goals-against-average mark this season.

    “Sophia is a force back there, and probably our biggest asset,” Giuliano said.

    The Cougars, meanwhile, boast a tough defensive line anchored by sophomore Claire Thomas and freshman goalkeeper Erika Woodbury. BYU”s defense has not allowed more than two goals in a game since Sept. 4 against Arizona State.

    “We feel like our defense is coming around pretty well,” BYU assistant coach Chris Watkins said. “Right now we”re spending all of our time in front of the net. It”s shooting, shooting, shooting.”

    Junior forward Jaime Rendich leads the Cougars on offense with five goals and two assists. Sophomore forward Annie Zwahlen follows with four goals and two assists.

    “We have to come out strong and not get behind from the start,” Rendich said. “We”re trying to keep up the confidence we have right now.”

    Rockwood said she is excited to start with a clean slate in conference play after surviving a rough pre-season schedule.

    “This is what counts the most,” she said. “It”ll be a fresh start for us. We look at Thursday as our most important game of the season right now. We feel we”re a solid team that can compete well in conference, and hopefully we”re excited and ready to get going.”

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