“Super special”: BYU women’s soccer’s senior class leaves quite a mark on school history
Powerhouse is a term that isn’t used lightly. However, this is a fitting description for the BYU women’s soccer team and its graduating class of 2023.
In the past three years, Jennifer Rockwood’s squad has made two appearances in the NCAA Women’s College Cup and seniors like midfielders Jamie Shepherd and Olivia Wade-Katoa have been in both.
Even after the bitter 2-0 defeat to No. 2 seed Stanford in Friday’s national semifinal in Cary, North Carolina, Rockwood said her team has nothing to be ashamed of.
“They’re unbelievable young women,” Rockwood said of Wade-Katoa, Shepherd, and the seniors. “They’ve had an amazing career at BYU and represented us at an unbelievable level.”
Unbelievable would be an understatement.
This senior class took the Cougars to its first College Cup in 2021, coming within a penalty shootout of beating Florida State — who will play in Monday’s final against Stanford — in the national championship. They made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen last season before making a return trip to the College Cup this year.
The seniors helped guide the program to new heights in the Big 12 Conference, finishing as both the regular season and tournament runner-up in its first year. They also led the team to a memorable and historic comeback win over an established North Carolina team last week on a frigid South Field.
Shepherd and Wade-Katoa, however, both dreamed of being on this stage from the beginning.
“Coming to BYU was always a dream for both of us,” Shepherd said. “We just wanted to come in and compete and do what no BYU team had done before.”
It meant more for Rockwood, who said she’s known some of the players since they were young. That includes Wade-Katoa, who told Rockwood in a high school state championship match that she would play on South Field one day.
Rockwood said the team has also been through a lot, and not just this past season.
“They didn’t come in as a class,” Rockwood explained. “They came in between some redshirts, some injuries, some missions, and even COVID.”
But through it all, they never let that get in the way of the bonds they shared.
“The most important thing is that they represented BYU at the national level,” Rockwood said.
For Wade-Katoa and Shepherd, they know their accomplishments will have a huge ripple effect for future generations of Cougars.
“I just know there’s more little girls across the country and in Utah that will come to BYU and keep making this program better because of us,” Wade-Katoa said.
And after year one in the Big 12, it’s safe to say the next generation has some huge shoes to fill after this group departs in the spring.
But Rockwood said she’s ready for the challenge.
“These guys have left quite a legacy for our younger players, and it’s time for them now to step up and fill these shoes,” she said.