Every sport comes down to mere inches, particularly in game-changing moments.
The No. 7-ranked BYU women’s soccer team can describe just how razor-thin the line is between victory and defeat when facing an excellent opponent, something it experienced in Friday night’s tough 2-1 loss against No. 3-ranked UCLA in Los Angeles.
A pair of crucial second half plays were remarkably similar at each end of the field.
The Bruins trailed the Cougars 1-0 in the 59th minute when UCLA sophomore forward Mia Fishel got control of the ball inside the BYU penalty box. Cougar defenders converged and tried to poke the ball away, but were called for a foul.
Bruin senior midfielder Marley Canales buried the ensuing penalty kick, tying the game.
Later in the contest, BYU senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan also had control of the ball in the UCLA penalty box and was taken down by a defender — only the defender got just enough of the ball to avoid the foul call.
With the game knotted at 1-1, the Bruins again attacked and freshman Reilyn Turner was able to get the ball to freshman Sunshine Fontes with just enough of an angle to fire a shot into the back of the net and score what turned out to be the game-winner.
Colohan had a similar look at the opposite end — only her shot just missed the top corner and sailed out of bounds.
Two similar plays, two very different outcomes, two big breaks for the home team as UCLA was able to hang on for the win.
“UCLA is super-talented and super-strong,” BYU sophomore midfielder Olivia Wade told the BYU Sports Network after the game. “We were hanging in there and working hard. Our backline did a phenomenal job. Everyone gave it their best effort.”
The Cougars got the first big break of the contest in the 48th minute of play after earning their first corner kick.
BYU sophomore midfielder Brecken Mozingo lofted the ball into the box, where it was knocked down right in front of the goal. A Bruin defender tried to clear it but Cougar sophomore midfielder Jamie Shepherd got in the way.
The deflection spun back through the players and across the line, giving BYU the first goal of the contest.
“I definitely think scoring that goal made them go on their heels a little bit,” Wade told the BYU Sports Network. “It showed that we were here to play, that we have a great team. It was great to put one in the back of the net.”
Neither the Cougars nor the Bruins could find the net in the first 45 minutes.
BYU started off strong with a couple of quick shots from distance, but the best chance of the half was from UCLA.
In the 42nd minute, Fishel broke past the Cougar backline and had a window to fire a hard shot on goal. The ball ended up slamming hard off the near post and bouncing out, keeping the contest deadlocked at 0-0.
BYU also had another shot the ricochet off the crossbar and both keepers had to make some solid saves to limit the scoring.
Although the Cougars weren’t able to leave with the win, Wade believes the team learned some important things.
“It is wonderful to play such a talented team so early in the year to see where we are really good and where we need to approve,” Wade told the BYU Sports Network. “I think we are going to surprise a lot of people. We lost a lot of great players from 2019 but have some talented young players. We’re going to do some great things.”
The Cougars now turn around and prepare to face another Top 10-ranked foe as they will play at No. 6-ranked USC on Monday. That game is scheduled to kickoff at 1:30 p.m. MT and will be streamed on the Pac-12 Network USC Live stream.