On the soccer field, BYU senior defender Dana Oldroyd Cusick plays with intense focus and determination. She often has a glare on her face
It only took one question, however, to make Cusick emotional:
What is it like to be a senior on the Cougar women's soccer team?
"This is it," she said. "I keep telling myself every day to have no regrets and to play every day like it's my last because that's coming up. It means a lot to me because I love this sport and I love this team.
"I was talking to a good friend who graduated last year and she told me she misses soccer all the time and to live every day to its fullest. That's what I plan to do."
Cusick and the rest of her team kick off the 2012 season on Friday at Cal-Irvine with big plans for the year.
BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood likes the talent and experience her girls are bringing in. Now it comes down to putting it all together.
"We have girls that have played in big games and know what it takes to win," she explained. "I think our depth is great this year and everyone has worked hard since last fall to get better."
One of the big keys according to Rockwood is finding ways to get the ball in the net more often.
"We're trying to run a little bit different system this year which will hopefully allow us to score more goals," she said. "We're trying to add more creativity and space and time for our attacking players to get the ball."
The Cougars will certainly rely on senior forward Carlee Payne Holmoe — a preseason All-West Coast Conference selection — to be a big part of some the offensive-focused adjustments.
"She's feisty, runs hard and creates a lot of chaos," Rockwood said. "We think she will be able to score some goals. She's also really good at setting people up. People will key on her and that will open doors for teammates."
Others in the front will be senior Jessica Ringwood, junior Niki Fernandez and freshman Michelle Murphy.
BYU will rely on juniors Rachel Manning and Cloee Colohan in the midfield, according to the head coach.
The defense should be a huge strength since it is returning all four starters, led by another preseason All-WCC selection in senior Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall.
"We have two girls who played almost every minute in the backline (Cutshall and senior Ashley Bazzarone)," Rockwood said.
Junior goalkeeper Erica Owens hasn't seen a lot of playing time but Rockwood said she has put in all the effort and is ready for her turn. She's also been named one of the captains, which gives an idea of the confidence the rest of the team has in her.
The Cougars also feature seven athletes who graduated from Utah Valley high schools and Rockwood said they play big roles.
"They have always been a big part of our team and done really well for us," she said.
One of those is Cusick — a Timpanogos grad — who the head coach has been pleased with so far this year.
"(Cusick) has come a long ways," Rockwood said. "She's had every roll on the team and now her role is to be a starting defender. Her game has really improved and she knows what she needs to do."
Cusick says this BYU team needs to stay focused, but if it does it could be very good.
"We are looking very solid and everyone is working really hard," she said. "Is last week, we had some of the most intense practices I think I've ever had at BYU. We are just so looking forward to the season. I think it's going to be an absolutely amazing season."
After the season opener at Cal-Irvine on Friday (8 p.m. MDT), the Cougars play at Arizona on Aug. 23 and at Utah on Aug. 25 before coming home for the home opener against Long Beach State on Aug. 30.
"Our fans can expect to see a team that loves to play front of them," Rockwood said. "Hopefully we can put on a good show. I think that's why fans enjoy coming because these girls work so hard and pay hard and battle hard."
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.