The No. 9 BYU women’s soccer team gears up to play in-state rival Utah (2-1-1), as part of the Deseret First Duel on Friday, Sept. 4 at South Field.
Coming off three consecutive 2-0 victories against Cal, Colorado and Nebraska, the Cougars (3-0-0) appear ready to pounce on the Utes. Fourteen of the series’ last 19 games have been decided by one goal, with BYU accumulating an 11-7-2 record over that span.
For the Cougars, there’s a lot on the line. BYU is ranked in the top-10 for the first time since 2012; not to mention this match is opening the Deseret First Duel competition this year.
Transfer student and junior goalkeeper Rachel Boaz is new to the rivalry, but she understands the importance of maintaining a focused perspective.
“It doesn’t matter what their jersey says,” Boaz said. “We want to be the best we’ve been so far in this game and take it one game at a time.”
Junior forward and Hermann Trophy candidate Ashley Hatch said she is excited and even a little anxious about the rivalry game.
“On the inside, everyone knows it’s the rivalry game, so there’s a little more excitement,” Hatch said.
Utah is known to be a physical team contending in the Pac-12 Conference, recognized for their strength, ball possession and defense.
“The closer to our opponents’ goal we can win the ball, the better chance we have of scoring goals,” BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “We’re going to have to really earn a goal if we can put one in.”
Another of BYU’s weapons is the fan atmosphere. At the home opener against Colorado last Friday, a record crowd of 5,889 came out to cheer on the Cougars.
“We’ve always been fortunate to have an amazing fan base here and (it was) probably one of the most electric nights, I felt, at South Field,” Rockwood said.
Hatch recognized the empowerment that comes from having a large crowd support.
“Knowing that all those people are there for your team and want your team to win, it just gives you another kind of energy that doesn’t really come when there’s no one there,” Hatch said.
Kickoff begins Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at South Field. The game will be broadcasted live on BYUtv as well as Cougar IMG Sports Network on ESPN Radio 960 AM, online at byucougars.com and on the BYU Cougars app.