Replacing seniors on a college roster is a common issue every offseason across the country.
For the BYU women’s soccer team, last year’s group of seniors left a sizable gap to fill.
Most noticeably, the Cougars lost NSCAA All-American Ashley Hatch, WCC Player of the Year Michele Vasconcelos and First-Team All-WCC player Elena Medeiros after making it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and a No. 9 national ranking last season.
Hatch led the Cougars and ranked third nationally with 19 goals last fall. The scoring outbreak earned her a call-up to the U.S. Women’s National Team in October, where she played in a friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Hatch was the first BYU player to make the senior national team’s roster since current assistant coach Aleisha Cramer Rose played in 2002 and was drafted second overall in the National Women’s Soccer League draft.
Vasconcelos tallied 13 assists, which placed her fourth nationally. Medeiros had six goals and six assists on the season.
Overall, the departed seniors scored 44 of the team’s 58 goals and led BYU to the third-most proficient offense in the country. Heading into 2017, the scoring would need to come from new sources.
“We had some very influential players graduate,” said assistant coach Brent Anderson. “It was going to be a challenge this spring as players stepped into those new roles, had more playing time, and more opportunities.”
After a 7-1 spring record, which included a win over defending national champion USC, the Cougars seem primed to pick up right where they left off last December.
BYU tallied 18 goals in the offseason matches, with senior Nadia Gomes and sophomore Elise Flake scoring five apiece.
On the defensive side of the ball, BYU allowed just seven goals and had five shutouts in eight games.
The shutouts against defending champion USC and UNLV came without last year’s WCC Defensive Player of the Year Taylor Isom, who was called up to the U.S. Under-23 Women’s National Team.
“We tested ourselves this spring the best we could,” Anderson said. “It was a great opportunity for (our players) to really show what they can do.”
NCAA rules limit travel and time commitments in the spring, so all eight games were played on Saturdays in Provo or Las Vegas against teams from Utah, Nevada or California.
Anderson said the team hopes the players transfer the successful spring into a productive summer leading into the fall season.
In addition to roster changes, South Field’s playing surface was redone over the offseason.
The biggest improvement from the project will be an improved playing surface drainage system. Heavy rains in the past have made the field difficulty to play on at times, and the new system will help the field remain playable during rough weather.
Additionally, a brand new field of Kentucky bluegrass was laid down.
— BYU Women's Soccer (@byusoccer_w) May 4, 2017
“This project has been really impressive,” Anderson said. “The forethought and the precision put into preparing the field and getting it back together has been amazing to watch and be a part of.”
The Cougars’ first home game this fall will be against Ohio State in August.