Defining moments: Women’s soccer cruises to NCAA Quarterfinals
Editor’s note: To help fill the sports void, The Universe is taking a look at some of the more memorable moments of the 2019-20 season across all BYU sports in a series of stories.
The 2019 BYU women’s soccer season was one for the books.
The Cougars, who started the season unranked, capped off their first ever undefeated regular season in program history with a extensive run in the NCAA Tournament.
Although the team’s loss to eventual national champion Stanford in the NCAA Quarterfinals was not the ending it had hoped for, BYU’s tournament run highlighted the team’s defining characteristics of unity and dominance.
The Cougars finished the regular season with a No. 4 national ranking and an 18-1-0 record, earning them a No. 2 seed to start the NCAA Tournament. BYU, whose only tie of the year came against No. 14 Santa Clara, was coming off of a commanding 8-1 win over Loyola Marymount to clinch its seventh WCC title in the last eight years.
“I’m really proud of the team and how they’ve battled all season to prepare for this moment,” BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood told reporters after the LMU game. “We’re now looking to what lies ahead with the NCAA Tournament.”
The Cougars’ No. 2 seed in the tournament guaranteed them home-field advantage through at least the first three rounds as long as they continued winning, which they did.
BYU took the pitch in front of a sold-out South Field crowd on Nov. 15 for its first-round matchup against a tough Boise State team. The Broncos had finished the season with an 18-4 record and were fresh off a Mountain West Conference Tournament championship.
The Cougars opened the game with the same ruthless offensive attack fans had grown so accustomed to watching throughout the season. Led by junior forward Cameron Tucker, BYU out-shot Boise State 9-4 throughout the first 45 minutes. Tucker netted back-to-back goals in the 19th and 20th minutes before a Bronco goal brought the score to 2-1 at the half.
Rockwood’s team showed no signs of letting up the attack in the second half, out-shooting Boise State by a dominant 12-2 margin. Goals by freshmen midfielders Jamie Shepherd and SaraJayne Affleck and senior forward Elise Flake gave the Cougars a comfortable 5-1 win and set up a second-round showdown with No. 23 Louisville on Nov. 21.
The Cardinals proved to be a much tougher test for BYU, at least in the first half. The Cougar offense struggled to find a hole in the stifling Louisville defense and the game remained a scoreless tie heading into the second.
BYU’s attack couldn’t be held back much longer, however, as a flurry of three goals within a six-minute span all but put the game away. Flake ripped a shot in the net in the 62nd minute before fellow senior forward Mikayla Colohan scored one minute later and Tucker scored in the 68th. An insurance goal by Colohan from the penalty spot in the 82nd sealed the 4-0 shutout and punched the Cougars’ ticket to the third round.
“We definitely found the space a lot better in the second half,” Flake told reporters after the match. “We attacked a lot more, we looked to go forward and get touches in the box. Once we got that first goal it just kept going.”
BYU had a quick two-day turnaround before taking on NC State in the third round. The Wolfpack had just taken down No. 3 seed Arkansas and were looking to continue their cinderella run. The Cougars, however, were ready.
Tucker got BYU off to a quick start, scoring her third goal of the tournament in the 12th minute. Junior defender Josie Guinn followed with a goal of her own in the 34th to put the Cougars up 2-0 heading into the locker room.
Tucker scored yet another goal in the 49th minute to give BYU a 3-0 advantage. BYU, which had only allowed a single NC State shot in the first half, then let up its attack, allowing the defense a chance to seal the game. Senior goalkeeper Sabrina Davis came up big the remainder of the match, saving seven Wolfpack shots to record her 14th shutout of the season.
Another dominant team performance had earned the Cougars their third NCAA Quarterfinals appearance in program history.
“We were really excited to get going,” Tucker said after the game. “Every time we score early in the game, we’re doing something right and it makes the rest of the game a lot easier. We were anticipating it and wanting to go to goal right from the beginning.”
The win set up a showdown with the No. 1 seed and two-time national champion Stanford Cardinal on Nov. 29. Since the Cardinal were seeded above BYU, the Cougars traveled to Palo Alto, California for their first tournament match away from Provo.
In the end, the eventual national champions Stanford proved too tough an opponent for BYU. The Cougars were outscored 5-0 before senior defender Danika Serassio put BYU on the board in the 64th minute. Just like that, the Cougars’ dream season was over.
Despite the loss, BYU’s 2019 squad will go down as arguably the greatest in the program’s 25-year history.
Multiple players went on to receive a variety of postseason awards, including Colohan, Flake and senior defender Alyssa Jefferson who were all named United Soccer Coaches All-Americans and Scholar All-Americans. Flake was also named WCC Player of the Year.
Rockwood, who went on to be named WCC Coach of the Year and whose staff was named the United Soccer Coaches Regional Staff of the Year, believes the 2019 campaign will not be soon forgotten.
“I’m really proud of these girls,” Rockwood said. “I’m proud of how hard they worked to get to this point.”