The BYU men’s soccer team rebounded from Friday’s tough loss with an impressive 5-0 win over the Pali Blues.
The Cougars never looked back after jumping out to an early lead with a goal by junior midfielder Toni Niccoli in the game’s fifth minute.
“Any time you get a goal in the first 15 minutes, the other team is going to be on their heels,” head coach Chris Watkins said. “For us, we’ve noticed a trend. If we score early, we’re going to score a bunch.”
The trend continued as the Cougars scored three more goals in a span of 15 minutes. Junior midfielder Jonathan Junca sent a beautiful cross to teammate David Gates for a goal in the 21st minute to put the team up by two.
“We always start off slow,” Junca said. “So this game we came out harder…and we were able to capitalize.”
Junior forward Garrett Losee netted his third goal of the season off an assist from Niccoli in the 34th minute. Two minutes later, Doug Clark assisted sophomore forward Jace Green’s goal to increase the lead to 4-0 at halftime.
“To come out tonight with the kind of fire we had, I was really proud of our guys,” Watkins said.
The team’s offensive explosion was complemented by a stellar defensive effort. The defensive unit was able to deflect a number of chances from Pali, holding the opposition to only two shots on goal. Sophomore goal keeper Brian Hale notched his second shutout of the season, but was quick to praise his teammates’ effort.
“I always credit my defense,” Hale said. “Without them, it would be impossible to keep a shutout.”
Freshman sensation Dallin Cutler scored on a free kick in the 76th minute for the Cougars fifth goal of the game. BYU was able to hold on to the lead in a very physical game. The players maintained their composure as aggressive play became heated in the second half. Several fouls were whistled on both teams, culminating in Pali’s Fernando De Alba’s ejection in the 79th minute.
“This was a lit fuse, you could see it out there from about the 75th minute on,” Watkins said. “I’m glad our guys didn’t get involved in any of that stuff tonight.”
Saturday’s win keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive. With six matches left on the schedule, the squad will need to win out in order to contend for its first postseason appearance since 2007. The players are confident that the victory over Pali will create much-needed momentum.
“We’re still in it,” Junca said. “We’re still confident and we feel like we can pull it off.”
The Cougars will go on the road to face Fresno on Thursday, June 28.