For college athletes and coaches, the offseason always seems to pass so quickly.
Not this spring. Due to the coronavirus shutdown, thousands of athletes and coaches are in a holding pattern as they await decisions on the upcoming season. Sure, they are practicing their sport as best they can and trying to stay in shape. But they are also discovering other activities.
BYU women’s soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood has taken up running again. She’s listening to books and practicing her landscaping skills.
“My yard looks better than it’s looked in 15 years,” she said.
Senior-to-be Makayla Colohan is doing an internship over Zoom. She’s also running a lot more and golfing.
“Yesterday I started to learn to play the piano,” Colohan said. “At first, it felt like I had all the time in the world.”
It was supposed to be an extra busy summer for the BYU women’s soccer team but the Cougars only played two of their nine schedule games of their spring schedule before the shutdown in March. BYU was slated to host the Argentine national team for the second straight year and a summer tour in Europe was also canceled.
Spring and summer are prime recruiting seasons, but that activity is on hold as well.
“March, April and May are usually a huge time for evaluating prospects,” Rockwood said. “I know the 2020-21 and 2021-22 recruits and their families are really disappointed. Everything has really slowed down. We stay in touch with the girls on the team. We’ve done a scavenger hunt, a book club and devotionals on Sunday evenings. We’re having good conversations with the girls that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
Another big blow for BYU was loss of its summer camps to the coronavirus. Not only are the camps a good money maker for the program but the time the players spend together helps to develop team chemistry.
“We have about 2,800 boys and girls who usually come through our summer camp programs,” Rockwood said. “When BYU shut those down it was a big loss financially and for our staff, who uses those opportunities for recruiting and promoting the program.”
BYU finished 21-1-1 last season and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, losing to top-ranked Stanford. The Cardinal went on to claim the 2019 NCAA title with a shootout victory over North Carolina.
The Cougars lost most of their back line to graduation, including defenders Alyssa Jefferson, Rachel Lyman and Danika Serassio as well as goalkeeper Sabrina Davis.
Top scorer Elise Flake (20 goals, seven assists, 47 points) has also moved on but Colohan (16 goals, seven assists, 39 points), Cameron Tucker (12 goals, nine assists, 33 points), Ashton Brockbank Johnson (six goals, one assist, 13 points) and Sarajayne Affleck (four goals, three assists, 11 points) should keep the BYU offense dangerous.
Rockwood normally relies on grooming younger players to step in but this season the Cougars are the beneficiary of three Division I transfers – Brecken Mozingo (UCLA), Grace Johnson (Mississippi) and Natalie Wells (Utah). Johnson and Wells are both defenders.
“We’re not a team that goes into the transfer portal,” Rockwood said. “We had some kids who contacted us about the possibility of coming to Provo. We were familiar with all of them from recruiting them before. Brecken was a star here in Utah ever since she was little, so getting her from UCLA was huge for our team. Grace’s sister played for BYU so that was the connection there. Natalie wanted an opportunity to come off her mission and she’s a huge addition for us.”
Rockwood said she was hoping for word in the next few weeks about when the team can get together for training camp.
“Our culture is such a huge component for a successful team,” Rockwood said. “One of our strengths is our culture. The girls have worked hard to build it and we were in a really good spot with that when we left this spring. They were doing the right things.”
Colohan said she feels the urgency and the need for the team to be back together.
“The hardest part of it is we were coming off the year we had and losing seven seniors,” she said. “We need to establish a new team and the overall vibe. Without being together we tried to figure that out in other ways. We set up Zoom meetings to get in small groups. We meet as captains and as our leadership group. We frequently talk about making sure we’re still together. We set up a pen pal thing and tried to reach out to make sure the new players feel welcome. We have all the hopes in the world for next season.”