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BYU women’s soccer secures first Final Four berth by beating South Carolina

By Jared Lloyd - | Nov 27, 2021
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BYU players celebrate after scoring a goal during the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU players celebrate after the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan kicks the ball during the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU senior forward Cameron Tucker kicks the ball during the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood celebrates after the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU players celebrate after the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan kicks the ball during the 4-1 Cougar win over South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinal match at South Field in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

After surging to an early two-goal lead in Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinal match against South Carolina at South Field in Provo, the BYU women’s soccer team found themselves in a precarious position at halftime.

Even though the Gamecocks had only had two good scoring opportunities, South Carolina had taken advantage of the second to narrow the gap and headed to the locker room with some momentum.

The message at the break for the Cougars, according to head coach Jen Rockwood, was to not let the situation change anything about what her team was doing.

“We wanted to just do what we do,” Rockwood said. “We attack really well in the second half. I knew we were more fresh than they were and we’ve never been a team to sit back on a lead.”

BYU successfully followed that counsel, needing less than two minutes to score another goal to extend the Cougar lead.

“That was huge,” BYU senior forward Cameron Tucker said. “It’s always better to just go right out and score, whether in the first or second half. Being up two goals is way better than one. So it was what we needed to do.”

That put BYU on the path to the 4-1 win and gave the Cougars a spot in the College Cup Final Four for the first time in program history.

“I’m just really proud,” Rockwood said. “They’ve worked hard. They’ve had a goal in mind. They talked about it from the very first day we started practicing. There have been a lot of great teams, a lot of great players that have come before these guys. But I do feel this is the best team we’ve had on both sides of the ball right now, especially our attack and our energy. I’m just really excited to be with them.”

As she has all season, BYU senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan led the way for the Cougars with a pair of goals and an assist.

While she was the one who tallied the big third goal, Colohan gave all the credit to senior forward Cameron Tucker and sophomore midfielder Brecken Mozingo for setting it up.

“I was lucky to be in the place that I was,” Colohan said. “I didn’t create it at all. Brecken did all the work and played a great ball right across the face. Luckily I was there to tap it in.”

The visiting Gamecocks actually had a chance to seize the early lead when they earned a corner kick in the first minute. Although the ball bounced around and South Carolina had a few brief windows of opportunity in the BYU penalty box, the Cougars were eventually able to clear the ball.

Defense turned to offense in a flash as Colohan got the ball sprinting down the middle of the field.

When the Gamecock defense finally committed to stopping her, she slid it off beautifully to set up a shot for senior forward Makaylie Moore. Moore drilled a great shot inside the near post to put BYU on top.

That started a Cougar onslaught as Colohan and Co. attacked the South Carolina goal relentlessly for the next 10 minutes, which finally paid dividends in the 15th minute.

That was when Tucker raced to the end line on the right side of the field, then put it back in the middle to where Colohan was waiting.

Twenty-five minutes later, however, the Gamecocks finally got another good chance in the offensive third when a throw-in was played back to the thrower, senior midfielder Claire Griffiths, who lofted a gorgeous cross into the box.

It landed at the feet of South Carolina sophomore forward Corinna Zulio, who laced it across the line.

“We felt like we had a chance,” Gamecock head coach Shelley Smith said. “Then when you allow a score in the first minute of the second half, those change games. It switches momentum quickly. Then we were climbing out of a bit more of a hole and we never could quite claw our way back.”

That set the stage for Colohan’s goal to start the second half, which was followed by a well-executed BYU corner kick in the 61st minute that resulted in Moore heading in an insurance goal.

Smith said the Cougars deserved to win and move on.

“They’re an excellent team,” Smith said. “They showed tonight why they’re deserving to go to the Final Four. I’m happy for them. I think they’re gonna make a tremendous run.”

Colohan said she was thrilled with how her squad wrapped up their final home game of the season and advanced to the semifinals.

“It’s what you work for your whole life,” Colohan said. “I’ve wanted to be in this position the whole time I’ve been at BYU and I’m lucky that we were able to get another year to come back to make it happen. So I’m just super excited. I couldn’t have of asked for anything more.”

Tucker added: “It’s just a dream come true. Coming back as fifth-year seniors, this was the end goal that we all had, so it’s awesome. It’s amazing.”

The Cougars now turn their attention to a rematch with West Coast Conference foe Santa Clara with a spot in the finals on the line. The Broncos, who are the defending NCAA champs, defeated BYU in Santa Clara, 1-0, during league play.

“We think that our best soccer is still ahead of us and we keep proving that with each game,” Rockwood said. “South Carolina was a phenomenal team and we did a great job of moving the ball. We’ll just focus on what we’ve done this whole season to have the success and just keep doing that same thing.”

The official schedule is that the College Cup semifinals and finals will be held on Friday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 5, but Rockwood said the NCAA will adjust the date of the championship to accommodate BYU’s no-Sunday-play policy, if it is needed.

“I think we’ll play Friday and if they have to move it to Monday, they’ll move it to Monday,” Rockwood said.

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