BYU-UCI wsoc Colohan-Brockbank

BYU's Ellie Maughan (right) congratulates Ashton Brockbank for scoring a goal against UC Irvine at South Field on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.

Coaches are always hesitant to focus too much on winning streaks or accomplishments.

Better to keep your eye on the next opponent.

Jennifer Rockwood has been the BYU women’s soccer coach for 24 seasons but she’s never had a team quite like this one, which finished 18-0-1, the school’s first unbeaten run during the regular season.

Rockwood decided to take a moment midseason to have some real talk with her team.

“It’s kind of similar to rankings,” Rockwood said. “We don’t really address those things, other than to make sure the girls appreciate what they’ve accomplished. So midseason we did take a minute to say, ‘Look what you’ve done. Look where we’re ranked and looked what you’ve worked for. Just appreciate it.’ We just wanted them to understand how much they had accomplished, because those kinds of accomplishments build confidence moving forward.

“As far as the undefeated thing, that’s something we didn’t talk about. We’ve been so invested to get 3 points for each conference game. Our main goal was to win the conference championship. That’s happened, so now the main goal is to win on Friday night.”

The fourth-ranked Cougars earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Women’s College Cup and will take on Mountain West Conference champion Boise State in the first round at South Field on Friday.

“Our coaches, especially Brent (Anderson) and Steve (Magleby), they spend a lot of time watching film on our opponents,” Rockwood said. “We want to be familiar with what they’ve done. They won 18 games, and that’s a lot of wins for anybody. Obviously they’ve been successful so they’ve got to be feeling pretty confident. We look and see who is scoring goals for them and what formations they play, but most likely we’re not going to change too much of what we do.”

What BYU does is apply tremendous high pressure with their forwards, lock down opponents on the defensive end and score a lot of goals. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 68-9 this season.

Boise State (18-3-0) has been explosive on offense with senior Raimee Sherle, who was the No. 1 goal scorer in the country in 2018 with 20. This season, she has 16 goals and eight assists. The Broncos and Cougars have some common opponents: BYU beat Utah 2-0 and Boise State lost to the Utes 1-0 in double overtime. The Cougars rolled past Southern Utah 7-0, the Broncos beat the T’Birds 4-0. BYU topped Colorado College 4-0 in an exhibition match back in August, while Boise State lost to the Tigers 1-0.

Junior forward Makayla Colohan, who was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday, said the experience on the BYU team helps them prepare for whatever challenge is presented to them.

“We’re just taking it game by game and that’s been a big key all year,” she said. “That’s kind of what we told each other going into each game. We don’t look at who we’re playing. We just treat it like any other game and that’s really helped us be successful.”

The Cougars are expecting a big crowd at South Field after leading the NCAA in attendance for the fourth time in the past five seasons (3,242 per home match). If BYU wins on Friday, the Cougars will have the opportunity to play two more NCAA tournament games in Provo.

“There’s nothing like playing at home,” Rockwood said. “What everybody is always shooting for in the NCAA is for the opportunity to play home games. That’s a big advantage. Hopefully we can go and do what we do, take one game at a time and get some good results in this first matchup and then go from there.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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