The BYU women’s soccer team finished its 2016 season with a 16-2-1 record and won its fifth-straight West Coast Conference championship.
The Cougars were led by a group of six seniors: Rachel Boaz, Miranda Bailey Topham, Paige Hunt Barker, Elena Medeiros, Ashley Hatch and Michele Vasconcelos.
Each of them have had unique experiences in Provo that have not only helped shape the BYU team, but also themselves.
Rachel Boaz is a goal keeper from Murrieta, California. Boaz said the team’s success helped pave a way for many special memories and spiritual experiences.
“When we were traveling, we were able to do firesides and reach out to individuals through our success as a team,” Boaz said. “It was amazing to get to know the players and go through the temple with teammates.”
Boaz spent just two seasons in Provo after transferring from San Diego State, but she said she formed life-long relationships with her teammates.
“The huge stand out is knowing how much these players love each other,” Boaz said of her time in BYU blue. “Those close connections from the team are what matter most.”
Miranda Bailey Topham is a defender from Loomis, California. Bailey Topham said she’s learned more than just soccer while on the pitch.
“This program taught me how to be a team player, work hard and be disciplined,” Bailey Topham said. “These are things that I learned and can use in my career and throughout my life.”
Bailey Topham has played nearly 3,000 minutes in her BYU career after redshirting in 2012. She’s been a part of WCC championships and NCAA tournament runs, but was more concerned with her off-the-field legacy.
“I hope I contributed to friendships and a team mindset,” Bailey Topham said. “I wanted to be somebody that people could learn from.”
Paige Hunt Barker is a midfielder from Bountiful, Utah. Hunt Barker has four goals in 6,127 minutes in her career.
Hunt Barker expressed nothing but gratitude for the university and the women’s soccer program.
“The soccer program means everything to me,” Hunt Barker said. “Not just playing the game, but getting to know the girls, the coaching staff and being at the school with the professors. I’m just extremely grateful to be a part of it.”
Hunt Barker, like all of the seniors, has been a part of many wins at South Field, but she said a freshman-year experience sticks out.
“My favorite memory was playing my freshman year in the Elite Eight at South Field,” Hunt Barker said. “The air was electric and it was fun to play some of the best girls in the world.”
Elena Medeiros is a midfielder from Bountiful, Utah. Medeiros is a self-described quiet leader, who prefers to let her play speak for itself. She’s played 4,891 minutes in her career, scoring 19 goals and dishing out 14 assists.
“I have tried to lead by example,” Medeiros said. “I’m not a loud, in-your-face type of player, but I show leadership from playing and giving other players confidence.”
Medeiros has been a key player on the team throughout her career. Despite being a quiet player, Medeiros has had a large impact on the Cougars’ success. Perhaps her best game came last season against Utah Valley University.
“Scoring the game-winning goal at UVU last year was a big career highlight,” Medeiros said. “Winning the conference every year is also a huge accomplishment.”
Ashley Hatch is a forward from Gilbert, Arizona. Hatch is one of the most productive scorers in the nation. She currently is in the No. 4 spot nationally, scoring 18 goals on the season.
Hatch also had the unique opportunity to appear and train with the U.S. Women’s National Team. Hatch said her time with the USWNT helped her “learn a lot” and “gain a different appreciation for the game.”
Hatch said she will miss playing with the BYU squad. Playing soccer for Hatch has meant a lot, but playing in Provo with the BYU program made all the difference.
“Playing on South Field and winning games are my favorite memories,” Hatch said. “There are a few games in my mind that I will never forget.”
Michele Vasconcelos is a forward and midfielder from Sandy, Utah who had led the team on the field as both a player and a captain.
“I am more confident in myself and more sure of the player that I am,” Vasconcelos said. “It’s my senior year. I just told myself I have to be me.”
Vasconcelos has an emotional connection with the team that makes it hard for her to talk about leaving.
“It’s been a great five years. It’s going to be hard to leave,” Vasconcelos said. “I try to not think about it, but whenever it gets brought up my mom starts crying.”
Each senior has provided leadership in their own way for the Cougars, and head coach Jennifer Rockwood will have big shoes to fill next season.
But for now, the seniors aren’t done yet. They led BYU to a 2-0 win over UNLV on Nov. 11 and will take on Oklahoma on Nov. 17.