Three Mountain West Conference first-teamers, one goal, and the BYU women's soccer team is on its way to the MWC women's soccer championship.
Andrea Willis and Kassidy Shumway assisted on a goal by freshman phenom Carlee Payne as the BYU women's soccer team defeated fourth-seeded New Mexico, 1-0, to qualify for the finals of the MWC Tournament for the third straight year on Thursday at South Field in Provo.
"It was a tough header, I don't know how she did it," said BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood. "She's had a fantastic year for us. She's scored a lot of big goals and this is probably the biggest goal of the year so far."
Willis, a senior defender and two-time MWC Defender of the Year, sent forward a free kick into the Lobo goalbox in the 31st minute. Shumway got a head on the ball first, sending it back to Payne who found the back of the net on her own header for the score.
Named MWC Freshman of the Year last week, Payne's goal was her 13th of the year and third in conference play.
"I never thought that would be the only goal of the game," Payne said. "I knew the goalie was somewhere in the middle and I need to hit it on frame, to the side and I didn't need to hit it very hard and it'd go in."
Willis, a senior, and Shumway, a junior, have been named to an All-Conference Team every year of their BYU careers while Payne and sophomore goalkeeper McKinzie Olson earned their first honors this season.
Olson recorded her career-best 11th shutout of the year, recording four saves. Olson came up big in the 32nd minute, punching away a high shot by New Mexico, then punching away and ultimately collecting the ensuing corner kick.
New Mexico, which lost 3-0 to BYU in Provo during the regular season, held tight with the Cougars off the opening kickoff. The Lobos allowed just one shot by BYU while holding the Cougars to just two corner kicks, six below the team's average.
But in the second half as BYU developed more of a rhythm, the Lobos turned to more alternative tactics. New Mexico defender Elizabeth Lambert first punched Payne square in the back on a dead ball, then yanked Shumway down to the ground from behind in the goalbox by her hair, two of a few questionable plays. None of the three referees saw either of the fouls.
"It pumps me up," said Payne of the aggressive plays. "When they're pushing me and fouling me I think it's funny. I just laugh it off and it makes me even more aggressive."
The Cougars will face second-seeded San Diego State in the championship game on Saturday at noon at South Field. The Aztecs are the only MWC team BYU did not beat in 2009, finishing with a 2-2 tie early in the season in San Diego. San Diego State defeated Utah in the game previous at South Field, scoring in double overtime to advance. BYU will be looking to win their third straight conference tourney and their second-straight sweep of the conference regular season and tournament titles, in addition to revenge.
"We want to go take it to them and get a win. It'll complete our season," Olson said.