All the possession in the world in soccer doesn’t mean a thing unless you can score the ball.
No. 12 seed BYU found that out the hard way in its second-round NCAA Tournament match against Virginia on Saturday.
The Cougars put tremendous pressure on the Cavaliers in the first 20 minutes but couldn’t find a way to get on the board. Virginia took advantage of its one great opportunity in the first half to take a 1-0 lead and then put the game away with another score in the second half for a 2-0 victory in Carey, North Carolina.
BYU — the highest scoring team in college soccer with 47 goals — saw its 53-match scoring streak snapped. The last time the Cougars failed to score was in a 2-0 loss to top-ranked Stanford at South Field in 2018.
“We came out and did exactly what we wanted to do in the first half, just not the most important thing to put the ball in the back of the net,” Cougar coach Jennifer Rockwood told the BYU Sports Network. “We let them hang around too long and they found a way to score. We played well in the first half and had plenty of opportunities. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way.”
BYU led in most of the offensive categories, outshooting Virginia 18 to 11, getting 11 shots on frame to four for the Cavaliers and also had a 5 to 4 advantage in corner kicks.
The Cougars dominated the run of play in the first 20 minutes with a huge advantage in possession and eight shots. Mikayla Colohan’s chip pass to Cameron Tucker set up nicely but Virginia goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, who made 11 saves in the match, made a great sliding stop to keep the game knotted at zeros. The Cougars also hit the goal post several times.
“We came out and looked fantastic in the first 15-20 minutes,” Rockwood said. “We really couldn’t have played better. We still had plenty of time to score a goal (after Virginia scored) but we just couldn’t find that last pass or final shot. We were just off in the attacking third.”
In the 34th minute, BYU’s defense lost Alexa Spaanstra and she beat Cougar keeper Cassidy Smith to the far post for a 1-0 lead.
The wind seemed to go out of the sails for the Cougars at that point and they never recovered.
“It really is a gut punch when you’ve played so well and they get that first look and put it away,” Rockwood said. “We just didn’t have it in us to find the back of the net.”
Tucker had an opportunity to tie the match in the 60th minute but her shot was turned away again by Ivory and the Cavaliers were never really threatened after that play.
Eight minutes later, a thrown-in by Virginia gave Spaanstra another open look and she converted for an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
The Cavaliers (12-4-2) move on to the Sweet 16 against Rice, a 1-0 upset winner against No. 5 seed West Virginia.
BYU ends its season at 11-4-1 but will return virtually its entire roster plus some talented recruits for the fall 2021 season.
“It’s been a great year for us,” Rockwood said. “I’m really proud of this team. We have a lot of these kids coming back in the fall. We’ll take a break and come back ready to go.”