BYU soccer

The BYU women's soccer team celebrates after its 3-2 win over Utah.

After a disappointing 2017 campaign, BYU women's soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood knew she had some work to do.

Specifically, helping her team find the back of the net more often.

The Cougars struggled to score last season, averaging just 1.68 goals per match. This season, the Cougars are third in the country in scoring (2.67 goals per match) and second in shots per match (21.89).

The 2018 version of BYU soccer comes at you early and doesn’t let up.

“One of the things where we’ve made major improvement is our attack,” Rockwood said. “It’s been a gradual process. We used the spring to refine our formation. We’ve done something different tactically then we’ve ever done, so it’s been fun.”

Fun and effective: The Cougars (13-4-1) are led by junior Elise Flake, who has scored 13 goals and added five assists. Six other BYU players have at least three goals, including freshman Bella Folino and sophomore Mikaylie Moore with six each. The Cougars have outshot their opponents by more than a 2-to-1 margin (394 to 190). Freshman midfielder Oliva Wade’s ball control and the speed of defender Rachel Lyman down the sideline has made a big impact as well.

That relentless attack will be put to the test on Friday when the Cougars travel to Fort Worth, Texas, for the first round of the NCAA Tournament against TCU. The Horned Frogs (12-4-3) gave up less than a goal a match (.84) and earned their third straight trip to the postseason.

“TCU is an attacking team,” Rockwood said. “They’re used to scoring goals but they haven’t given up a lot of shots or too many goals. We’re hoping they haven’t seen an attacking team like ours. We can get them to play more defense than they’re used to and get them on their heels a little bit.”

The one common opponent between BYU and TCU is Santa Clara. The Cougars topped the Broncos 2-0 on Oct. 27 to clinch their NCAA invite and the Horned Frogs fell at Santa Clara 3-0 in in mid-September.

BYU is also 9-0 against TCU all-time but the two programs haven’t met since 2010 when both were members of the Mountain West Conference.

“I think the biggest thing is to focus on what we do best,” said BYU’s lone senior, Madie Gates. “We’re not going to change anything. We’ve been playing well. The preparation this week is to stay focused but loose as that game comes.”

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

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