BYU women’s soccer team set a four-year winning streak again Utah with its 3-2 win on Sept. 7. The team has now won 17 of their last 23 matches against their in-state rival.
Though Utah is BYU’s in-state rival, head coach Jennifer Rockwood said the team doesn’t prepare any differently to play against Utah than it does for any other team.
“If you start preparing too much for rivalry games then sometimes your emotions can go up and down,” Rockwood said. “We really try to focus on the game just in front of us and try to prepare mentally the same way for each game.”
Forward Lytiana Akinaka said she knew it was going to be an intense and difficult game because of the in-state rivalry, but that didn’t deter the team.
“We wanted it more,” Akinaka said. “We were determined to win.”
The game was a fighting battle — a scoreless first half and then a tie (2-2) until the 84th minute when forward Madie Siddoway Gates finally put away the last goal that claimed the match.
“We thought we kind of had it in hand,” Rockwood said. “That’s why soccer is such a crazy sport, it can change so quickly. I’m really proud of the way we continued to battle and didn’t give up.”
Rockwood has been the coach since 1995 and has seen this team evolve over time. She said one of the ways the players have achieved teamwork is through their commitment.
“It’s the commitment to the team and to each other, to support one another and stay positive,” Rockwood said. “We have some great leaders on our team. We spend a lot of time together, and we’re all trying to make sure that the team is successful.”
Gates, the only senior on the team, has been a part of the four-year winning streak since it began. It’s been an exciting run, according to Gates.
“(The team’s) culture is really good right now,” Gates said. “I feel like everyone is equal and respected and holds each other accountable.”
Gates’ first goal for BYU was in the Utah game during her freshmen year. She said it has come full circle after scoring the winning goal against Utah in her last year.
“It was a great team effort for us to get that last goal. It felt good to finally put it away and for us to come off the field with the win,” Gates said. “I was pretty excited after I scored it. I was exhausted, but very thrilled.”