Defense drives Cougars

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    By Amanda Egbert

    Brooke Thulin takes three running-steps, jumps into the air and flips forward. As her feet touch the ground, she launches the soccer ball 30 yards to a teammate. The South Stadium erupts with cheers as key BYU defender Thulin moves BYU down the field.

    A backyard challenge from her father of adding a soccer ball to her gymnastics led Brooke Thulin to her famous flip throws today.

    Thulin?s throw-ins have evolved from the Thulin family lawn in California, to finding the back of a truck bed for accuracy, to directly assisting BYU?s offense for three goals with her throws this season. From the sideline, Thulin can cross the field, dropping the ball in front of the opponent?s net, creating a perfect scoring opportunity for BYU.

    At age five when her parents singed her up for American Youth Soccer Organization to develop coordination and get involved, Thulin?s career and love for soccer began. Thulin?s favorite aspect of soccer is being around girls who are competitive, but fun as well.

    Tad, Thulin?s club coach, had the most significant influence on her soccer career.

    ?He was an amazing man,? Thulin said. ?He knew the game well, teaching me on and off the field.?

    BYU found Thulin and recruited her from her club team during high school.

    Thulin will continue to play solid defense and set the Cougars up for scoring opportunities against Air Force at 7 p.m. today in the South Stadium.

    ?We want to come out hard and move forward with the ball,? Thulin said. ?Last Thursday [in a 1-0 loss to New Mexico] we possessed the ball but did nothing with it. More than anything we want to win.?

    Air Force (4-10-1, 0-2-0) tied No. 13 BYU (12-1-1, 1-1-0) during the regular season in 2004, and then bumped the Cougars out of the Mountain West Conference tournament by beating BYU 2-1.

    ?After being knocked out last year, we have been waiting for an opportunity to play again. It gives us incentive and excitement,? BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said.

    Brittney Perkowski leads Air Force?s offense with five goals this season. Goalkeepers Erin Wallace and Jennifer Drew, share time in the goal, totaling 57 saves.

    BYU is also slated to play Wyoming at 6 p.m. Saturday in the South Stadium.

    Preceded by nine victories, BYU suffered its first-ever loss (2-3 in overtime) to Wyoming last season during conference play.

    ?We want to be a high pressure team with the ability to attack, creating opportunities to score like we did against TCU,? Rockwood said.

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