No. 6 BYU defeats No. 13 UNC in historic Elite Eight comeback
On a snowy night in Provo, No. 6 BYU women’s soccer defeated No. 13 UNC for the first time ever in a historic 4-3 comeback to advance to the College Cup.
It would be a lie to say that the Cougars weren’t making fans nervous as the Tar Heels made three goals in the first 20 minutes of the game.
“The start of the game wasn’t quite what we anticipated,” head coach Jen Rockwood said. “I don’t think we all saw that coming.”
The first goal was scored in the second minute of the game by Maycee Bell from North Carolina who sent the ball into the top right of the goal getting an early lead, 1-0.
The Tar Heels went on to score two more goals in the first 20 minutes of the match.
“I think in the first half when you give up a goal in the first it just kind of takes you back for a little bit,” Rockwood said. “And it took us a few minutes but after the third goal, we really did settle down and I think our subs came off the bench, as they have all season, and really helped us gain a little bit of momentum.”
Once the whistle blew, BYU was ready to take back South Field.
BYU turned the momentum of the game by taking possession and pressing North Carolina right from the beginning of the half and holding them. Anyone in the stands could feel that they weren’t just hungry for leftovers from Thanksgiving but for a goal.
In the 61st minute, after a struggle within the box Bella Folino was able to maneuver around the Tar Heels, create an opening and send the ball to the back of the net to put the Cougars on the board, 3-1, and send South Field to their feet in an uproar.
But that was just the start.
In the 81st minute Brecken Mozingo would take a corner kick for the Cougars. Mozingo sent the ball sailing and was tipped by the North Carolina goalie and then bounced off a defender and into the goal moving the Cougars up 3-2.
But then just minutes later BYU charged down the field, at the top of the box Folino passed the ball over the Ellie Walbrauch who sent for a shot but was deflected off the goalie back to Folino who took the chance and sent the ball to the back of the net scoring the equalizer shot and sending South Field into an uproar.
“I was just so excited,” Folino said, reflecting on the goal. “Since that first goal we just kept saying one more goal, one more goal. We never gave up. It’s been mentioned a handful of times but this team has so much grit. We never gave up.”
With the score tied and less than 10 minutes on the clock, the Cougars continued to push for yet another shot that would bring them the lead.
In the 89th minute, Mozingo passes the ball off to Olivia Wade-Katoa at the top of the box. Just barely dodging a defender, Wade-Katoa sets herself up and launches the ball to the back of the net right past the goalie and finally giving BYU the lead right near the end of the match.
“I got the ball at the top and just had to take a deep breath before because I was like, alright this is it right here,” Wade-Katoa said. “So, honestly, just so proud of every single person…this team never gives up.”
BYU took this second half to show that they don’t give up and remind North Carolina just who’s field they were playing on. The Tar Heels head coach, Anson Dorrance, in his 47 years of coaching, was as shocked as the rest of the fans in this comeback.
“I’ve never seen that in my life,” Dorrance remarked. “That was just an extraordinary comeback for a great team. They came after us and their qualities, which by the way I have huge respect for, they’re great in the individual duel, they’re grading in running at people one v one, they’re great at carving people one v one and then their finish capability is also extraordinary. So I give them nothing but full credit.”
For the man that “set the standard”, as Rockwood says, for women’s soccer to give such praise to BYU women’s soccer says a lot about these players and what they were able to accomplish.
“I think it’s just a testament for our girls’ will and the belief in themselves and in their teammates, to overcome adversity, to believe and just keep pushing and give it everything they have,” Rockwood said. “We said at halftime we didn’t have anything to lose, let’s just get it all, put it out together. We played so well all season. We deserve to score at least one or two goals, so let’s get out there and get it done. And they did.”
The Cougars brought it all in this final home game of the tournament, making all the fans and coaches proud to be a part of what they have accomplished so far this season.
BYU will now head to Cary, North Carolina to face Stanford in the Final Four on Dec. 1.