The Cougars erupted for a 3-1 victory over the University of Utah in their return to South Field on Sept. 27 and dominated the BYU-Idaho Dragons 10-3 in Rexburg on Sept. 29.
The victories followed a slow start in their 1-1 draw with Utah State on Sept. 22.
After playing against semi-professional teams for the last 15 years, Coach Brandon Gilliam and many other team members expected to dominate in a less competitive collegiate level.
This was not the case in the team’s first three halves of play, however, as the Cougars scored just two goals and allowed two from their opponents.
Gilliam blamed “heavy legs” and a “lack of sharpness” for the slow start and uninspired offensive effort.
The team had only an hour of practice with the full squad, including returned missionaries and newcomers, before their match against Utah State that ended in a 1-1 draw.
It was not until the second half of Wednesday’s game against Utah that the Cougars looked like the dominant squad many expected prior to the season.
The stagnation was not for lack of opportunities; the Cougars led the Utes in shots 15-3 at halftime but lacked sharpness and organization in finishing their opportunities.
Gilliam said he wanted “a little more commitment, a little bit more desire on the end of the ball,” out of his players on the offensive end.
Forward Jacob Ence embodied this desire in his two second-half strikes. Both were largely individual goals, where he dribbled and fought his way past defenders and even the goalkeeper to guarantee a Cougar goal.
“At halftime coach Gilliam gave us a good pump up to reorganize ourselves into a better attack and find the back of the net,” Ence said. “We did not want to walk away with a draw tonight.”
The Cougars went on to finish off the Utes 3-1.
“We didn’t create more chances tonight; we just got a few put away tonight that we didn’t put away on Friday,” Gilliam said. “Improvement, but not good enough.”
Gilliam got some of the improvement he was looking for in a dominant performance from his team in Rexburg. They led BYU Idaho’s extramural team 2-0 at halftime and finished the game 10-3.
Forward Tanner Whitworth scored three of the goals, finding the back of the net for the first time this season.
“After Wednesday’s game we wanted to rotate a few players,” Gilliam said. “Everyone had the chance to showcase.”
With six returned missionaries and several new additions to the team, the game was a welcome opportunity to get comfortable on the pitch and become a sharper and more organized squad.
The Cougars return to South Field to take on crosstown rival UVU on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. MDT.