No. 1 Cougars matched by TCU, draw 3-3 in first conference game

The first-ever Big 12 matchup for BYU across all sports featured a No. 1-ranked Cougars team taking on TCU, who they had never lost to at home or in the regular season through ten matchups all-time. 

With 5,416 fans at South Field, the stage was set for an unforgettable night for the Cougars to christen the Big 12 era with a win. 

And then TCU scored. 

111 seconds in and the Cougars were trailing for the first time this season. Inside thirty minutes the visitors would score again, putting BYU into a 2-0 hole. The Cougars responded with two unanswered goals before TCU jumped back in front in the 61st minute. 

Erin Bailey came to the rescue, salvaging the festive evening with a goal in the 77th minute to escape the match with a 3-3 draw and prevent the upset.

“I’m sure TCU is thrilled to get a point on the road against us,” Head Coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “Good for them. We expect to win games at home. We missed out on two points, but it’s just the start of the Big 12. There’s lots of games to be played and lots of great teams in this conference. I don’t think it will hurt us in the long run, I think it will help us get better.”

Looking to spoil the party early, the Horned Frogs drew first blood in the second minute of the match when Gracie Brian beat Savanna Mason to her far post, silencing the ROC on the west end. 

Following the goal, TCU did well to maintain possession in the midfield and slow the game down despite a persistent BYU press, something the Cougars had not seen yet this season. 

“In the first half, our press didn’t work,” Rockwood said. “TCU played a possession game, they came out and went direct with their keeper. We gave them too much time and space and they were able to break us.”

BYU sniffed the net on a Jamie Shepherd centering pass across the face of a mostly open net in the 26th minute before the Horned Frogs countered on the other end and doubled their lead seconds later. TCU forward and Draper native Seven Castain received the ball at the top of the box with her back to the goal, spinning around her lone defender and calmly slotting a shot past Mason. 

“I came into this game with more confidence, if anything,” Castain said. “Izzi Stratton and Laveni Vaka are amazing players, but I’ve played with them my whole life. So I knew there were spaces that I could take advantage of and do well in. I knew I could play with these girls, number one in the country or not.”

Ten minutes before the half BYU drew a goal back via a well-placed set piece. Ellie Walbruch whipped a freekick in front of goal onto the head of Rachel McCarthy, who knocked the ball into the back of the net to cut TCU’s lead in half 2-1. 

Coming out of the break, the Cougars found the much-needed game-tying goal nine minutes into the second half. Olivia Wade-Katoa set up Allie Fryer inside the box with a perfect through ball for Fryer to run onto and guide into the bottom corner.

But TCU wasn’t done playing the role of spoilers. 

Castain answered the call again for the Horned Frogs, scrambling to a loose ball inside the area and beating Mason to retake the lead in the 61st, stunning the Cougar crowd. 

“We wanted to play them hard and welcome them into the Big 12,” Castain said. “It’s not easy, this is what every game is going to be like. Coming here to BYU in front of 5,000 fans who aren’t cheering for you and getting three goals and a result is huge.” 

The remaining half hour proved to be scrappy and physical, with multiple stoppages for fouls and injured players. With the lead in hand, TCU shifted its tactics towards containing and parking the bus in hopes of leaving Provo with a stolen win.

Erin Bailey, however, wasn’t going to let the Horned Frogs get away with theft.

In the 77th minute, the forward struck a bouncing ball inside the box to beat the TCU ‘keeper in the bottom left corner to tie the game yet again. 

Boom.

3-3 with 13 minutes to play.  

As the momentum shifted back to BYU, the Horned Frog defense grew increasingly complacent to leave Provo with the draw. TCU had several set pieces in the final five minutes of the match, but elected to dump the ball in the corner on each attempt rather than risk losing the ball in the middle of the pitch to a counterattack, and the match ended in a draw.  

Despite trailing by two goals after 30 minutes of play, the Cougars dug deep to answer TCU’s attack with not one but two game-tying goals to maintain their unbeaten record through eight games. 

“I’m sure TCU is thrilled to get a point on the road against us,” Rockwood said. “Good for them. We expect to win games at home. We missed out on two points, but it’s just the start of the Big 12. There’s lots of games to be played and lots of great teams in this conference. I don’t think it will hurt us in the long run, I think it will help us get better.”

BYU heads north this Saturday to take on Utah State at 3:00 p.m., before taking on Baylor in Waco next Thursday.

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