With nine conference games, the West Coast Conference women’s soccer title usually comes down to the last week of the season.
In 2019, the first week is going to be pretty important, too.
Fourth-ranked BYU — coming off a perfect 10-0-0 preseason — opens WCC play on today at Santa Clara. More often than not, the conference title often comes down to these two teams. BYU has won or shared four of the past five WCC crowns but Santa Clara has been right there with the Cougars. In the past five seasons, the Broncos are 34-8-3 in WCC play; BYU is 33-8-4.
“I don’t really think about our conference opponents as far as when we play them,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “You can’t really do anything about it so you just take it when it’s scheduled. Obviously, Santa Clara is one of the top teams in the conference year in and year out so we know we’ll have our hands full.
“But we look at it as every conference opponent as a tricky matchup. It’s always competitive and the conference championship has always come down to the last weekend, down to one, two or three points and usually one game. We know how talented and experienced and good Santa Clara is for sure. We hope we’ve learned enough in nonconference play. We’ve played a lot on the road so we hope that benefits us when we play on Saturday.”
Santa Clara finished its preseason schedule with a 6-5-0 mark, but played one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Broncos took on five ranked teams, defeating No. 16 UCLA 2-0 and losing 4-2 to top-ranked Stanford. Izzy D’Aguila, a freshman from Mission Viejo, California, has burst onto the scene in her first year and leads Santa Clara with 10 goals. Junior Kelsey Turnbow, a first team All-WCC selection last season, has seven goals and eight assists this season.
BYU rolled through its nonconference slate with impressive wins against No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 21 Kansas. That schedule included five road victory, four against Power 5 opponents.
The Cougars allowed just three goals in the 10 matches and are third in the country in goals against average (.333).
Senior forward Elise Flake leads BYU with nine goals and junior midfielder Mikayla Colohan has been brilliant, scoring six goals and directing a potent offense (fifth in the nation at 2.90 goals per game) where 11 different players have found the back of the net.
“We’re undefeated and we couldn’t ask for much more,” BYU junior midfielder Mikayla Colohan said.”
We need to clean some things up and be better in keeping the ball in the midfield third, but it’s really good to see the goals come from everywhere. Anyone on this team can score and that brings a lot of energy.”
Rockwood said her team has benefited from maturity and leadership from a strong senior class.
“I think just the fact that all the girls have kind of bought into the success of each other, that’s a hard culture to get going,” she said. “The upperclassmen have welcomed our freshman and some have accepted roles they’re not used to for the betterment of the team. It’s fun to win and everyone’s having fun. The girls seem to play better and train harder when they’re having fun.”