Cameron Tucker got the BYU women’s soccer team off to a great start and Lizzy Braby made sure the Cougars put the game away.
Tucker scored twice within a minute of play in the first half and Braby set up two teammates for goals in the second, leading No. 2 seed BYU past Mountain West Conference champion Boise State 5-1 in Friday in front of 3,682 fans at South Field in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament.
Holding a precarious 2-1 lead at halftime, BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said she just reminded her team what had been working all season: attacking relentlessly.
“We were settling for playing in front of Boise’s defense and that played into their strengths,” Rockwood said. “Our key was to try and find Lizzy and SJ (Affleck) facing forward in the attacking third and finding Bing (Rachel Lyman) up the sideline. That was going to free up Cam and Elise (Flake) and Kayla (Makayla Colohan) with more opportunities to attack.”
“With our determination and what we talked about at halftime, we were all on fire,” Braby said. “We wanted to go out there and show what we can do, and we did that.”
All the goals in the first half came in a flurry of excitement that began about 20 minutes into the match.
Boise State keeper Sydney Smith deflected a free kick by Colohan over the crossbar, giving the Cougars a free kick. Affleck’s serve found the head of Jamie Shepherd and the ball rocketed toward the goal. Tucker re-directed the ball past Smith for a 1-0 BYU lead at the 18:08 mark. Just over a minute later, Tucker took a pass from Flake and fired a shot into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
“We talked at the beginning of the game about me getting touches in the box and getting shots off,” Tucker said. “Kayla and Elise are both great players and everyone knows that. When teams are marking them extra hard, that leaves me open sometimes and that’s really nice.”
It took Boise State less than four minutes to regain some momentum. Morgan Stone sent a pass into the box and Emily Curry headed the ball in to cut the Cougar lead to 2-1 at the half.
Braby had a pair of gorgeous passes to allow BYU to take control of the match in the second half. In the 54th minute, Braby touched a ball into open space for Shepherd, who was racing full speed with a defender on her hip. Shepherd blasted a shot so hard Smith probably didn’t even see it for a 3-1 BYU lead. In the 64th minute, Affleck headed Braby’s long pass into the back of the net for a 3-1 Cougar lead.
The fifth Cougar goal came a couple of minutes later. Tucker won a long ball and fought off a defender to give the ball to Flake, who beat the BSU keeper one-on-one for the final 5-1 margin.
Boise State coach Jim Thomas had high praise for the Cougar team.
“I think when you get the opportunity to play against the best of the best you learn a lot about yourself, and I think we got to do that today,” he said. “That’s as good of an attacking team as I’ve seen in my time in the collegiate game. That team has so much speed across all levels that you’re maxed out trying to counter that. It was less breaking down and more overwhelmed and overpowered for us. That’s an incredibly powerful team.”
Boise State (18-4-0) finished 2019 with a program record for wins as well as all-time marks in goals and goals allowed.
The Cougars (19-0-1) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time and will host the second and third rounds next week at South Field. On Thursday, North Carolina State will play No.3 seed Arkansas in the 3 p.m. MT match and BYU will take on Louisville at 6 p.m.
The two winners will play in the third round at South Field at 6 tonight.