BYU women's soccer

BYU women's soccer looking for another banner year in 2014

2014-08-22T06:00:00Z BYU women's soccer looking for another banner year in 2014Jared Lloyd Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 22, 2014 6:00 am  • 

Thirty-six wins. Seven losses. Two ties.

That's what the BYU women's soccer team has accomplished in the last two seasons, including four NCAA tournament wins.

So is the 2014 Cougar squad going to be able to live up to that high standard?

Actually, they embrace it and are expecting an encore performance.

"We are a team that talks about the fact that you need to expect the best," BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said after Wednesday's practice. "You might as well shoot for that. If it doesn't happen, then you learn from it and you try and reach back up to that bar."

Cougar sophomore midfielder Michelle Murphy, one of the captains, said she loves having the expectations.

"I think we like the pressure," she said. "We thrive on it. Last year we were ranked higher but I think this year it will be better for us because we can take it game by game and knock that down. It motivates us."

The Cougars start their season Friday at Cal State Fullerton (8 p.m.), anxious to see exactly what they can do against an opponent.

'We are prepared and ready to play," Rockwood said. "We've had a lot of training and these girls have worked extremely hard. I think we are to the point where we've checked off all the things we wanted to address. We are ready to see what we are good at and what we need to work on. We need a live opponent and there's no way better than starting against Fullerton."

The early opinions on this particular squad is very optimistic.

"I think we're going to be really good," Murphy said. "As far as I've been here in the last two years, we haven't been as close as a team and I don't think we've been more prepared for a season as a team."

Rockwood believes that depth and athleticism will allow BYU to do some things it hasn't been able to do in the past.

One of the most tangible areas to see is the sheer quickness of so many of the Cougar players.

"I think we have a lot of creativity all over the field and a lot of speed," Murphy said. "That allows us to break down defense more easily because we are able to turn and go at people."

Rockwood said that ability opens up more options.

"Hopefully it will give us more opportunities to put balls in behind our opponent's backline," she said. "A lot of teams don't make a lot of subs on the backline, so if our starting three can wear them down as much as they can and then we put a new group of forwards who are just as good and even faster. Then by the second half hopefully we can get even more looks at the goal."

When looking at the individual positions, Rockwood had a tough time singling out players because she believes she has so many athletes who can contribute.

"We have eight players at forward and they are making it very difficult on us as coaches," she said. "It's not going to be possible to give everyone the time they deserve right now."

The biggest question mark for the Cougars are at goalkeeper, where freshman Hannah Clark and senior Katherine Snyder have been working to replace Erica Owens.

"We have both been competing a ton and pushing each other to be our very best," Snyder said. "There is not much more than you can ask for than that. There are huge shoes for us to fill. There is a high standard but both of us are looking to be there. I love that challenge."

Also of some concern is the middle of the BYU defense, which lost a number of tenured players.

"That is where we are the least experienced right now," Rockwood said. "Three of our strongest defenders right up the gut are gone and we miss them, but I think we have players in those spots who can get the job done and I think they will get better with more experience."

With the all of the talent and ability that the Cougars can put on the pitch, Murphy said that one of the biggest things will be getting everyone to buy into what they are asked to do.

"It's just figuring out everyone's roles on the team," she said. "It's still up in the air but honestly it doesn't matter because our bench is so deep."

High pressure and offensive combinations will be key, according to Murphy.

Now it comes down to taking all the piece and getting them synchronized on the field. Given the good teams the Cougars are going to face, BYU fans have to hope that happens sooner rather than later.

"We have a really tough schedule and we know that if we aren't at our best, we can be beat," Rockwood said. "But we also know that if we are at our best, we have a really good chance of winning."

After Friday's game, the Cougars return to South Field for the home opener against Washington State at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. 

Daily Herald sports editor ​Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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