No. 6 BYU heads to the second round of the NCAA tournament after defeating Utah State 2-0

In a showdown against its northern rivals, No. 6 BYU women’s soccer dominated the first round of the NCAA tournament against Utah State in a 2-0 win at South Field in Provo Friday.

Despite the chill in the air, the sold out crowd came in full force as they lined the sidelines and students packed into the ROC section. These fans were ready to see BYU take a first round tournament win.

First half

Right off the whistle, the Aggies looked to push the ball down the field but the Cougars quickly took possession of the ball and put the pressure on USU.

In the ninth minute of the game Jamie Shepard kicked the ball over to Kendall Peterson who took it to the left corner of the 18-yard. With a swift kick of her foot Peterson sent the ball into the bottom of the left corner of the goal, just barely missing the USU goalie, Diera Walton, bringing the Cougars up 1-0.

“We talked a lot at practice this week building up to this game, just finding those half spaces and really stretching them,” Shepard said. “…I just saw Petey kind of in that gap and that half space that we wanted and she’s got a great left footed shot and that’s her spot. She kept it low and it was a banger.”

With one goal under their belt, BYU was able to breath and keep pushing through the rest of the half.

“I think it was a good chance to kind of calm down,” Peterson said. “Once we had that first goal and we were able to just keep the ball and stay relaxed and not get frantic.”

By the end of the first half the Cougars led with 12 shots and six on goal, keeping Walton on her toes, while the Aggies came up at three shots for the half.

Second half

Coming into the second half, Utah State pushed harder to gain possession of the ball and itched to get a piece of the net. The Aggies were able to make more shots on goal throughout the half in an effort to bring them up.

However, BYU was able to continue to keep the pressure on the Aggies and look for openings on the goal. 

Then an opening came.

In the 72nd minute Ellie Boren passed the ball to the top of the 18 where it found the feet of Olivia Wade-Katoa who had a wide opening. Seeing the opening, Wade-Katoa sent the ball into the air where it hit the top goal post, came down and was knocked into the net by Walton as it came down behind her. With that the Cougars were up 2-0. 

“That’s something we literally talked about at half,” Wade-Katoa said. “When I have just that much space I gotta let it rip. And so as soon as I got that ball from Ellie I just knew that that was my time to let it rip and so I did and it worked out so it was great.”

The Cougars weren’t the only ones excited with each goal scored. With every goal came a roar of excitement from the student section as well as the other fans surrounding South Field.

“Southfield is so electric,” Head coach Jen Rockwood said. “It’s the best atmosphere for women’s college soccer to play in and the fans that support the program and the team and cheer for us. I know that gives them a lot of energy and a lot of confidence and they love playing in front of a big crowd.” 

With their supporters continually cheering, BYU played strong and finished the game with 28 shots and nine on goal.

Next up, the Cougars will face off against No. 8 seeded USC in the second round of the NCAA tournament on South Field on Thursday, Nov 16 at 7 p.m. The Trojans defeated Grand Canyon University 1-0 in the first round.

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