When BYU senior forward Elise Flake was a freshman, she trained every day with one of the Cougars best-ever front lines: Ashley Hatch, Michele Vasconcelos, Nadia Gomes and Elena Medieros. Those four players led BYU to 53 goals — seventh all-time — and an 18-3-1 record in 2016. Hatch and Vasconcelos currently play professional soccer in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Flake was paying attention.
Just four matches into her senior season, Flake has scored 24 career goals — 14 last season as a junior — which places her 14th in school history. The year she’s scored four goals and has a chance to finish in the top 10 goal scorer all time at BYU.
“I really looked up to those upperclassmen, the older girls I played behind and played with,” Flake said. “They sure taught me a lot. I’ve grown more confident over the years and that’s one thing that has helped me this year, knowing I can be a goal scorer and having teammates that can do the same. It’s about confidence and knowing that this is our year. We’ll be done soon, so this is our year to give it all me can.”
In a 2-0 win against Utah last week, Flake scored one goal and assisted on the other. BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said it was the best game she’d seen Flake play in her career.
“When she came in as a freshman she got to see Ashley, Michele, Nadia and Elena,” Rockwood said. “She got to see how they rose to the occasion when they were expected to score. That’s a big part of being a goal scorer is feeling that pressure but embracing it, being OK with it.
“Elise has definitely been able to do that this year. She knows more than anything that she is capable. Elise is playing with so much confidence right now, maybe confidence she didn’t have as much last year. She’s really embraced it this year as our captain and our leader. I think she knows she can score if given just a few chances. Everyone on the team believes she has a chance to score every time she steps on the field.”
No. 10 BYU hosts No. 12 Texas A&M on Thursday at South Field in a big preseason match. Last year, the Cougars traveled to College Station and lost to the Aggies 2-0. Rockwood said she scheduled the match to coincide with Fish Camp, part of the school’s freshman orientation. A large and active crowd of 4,282 fans at Ellis Field was just the kind of test she wanted for her team.
“I remember what an electric and amazing environment it was,” Rockwood said. “It’s one of my more exciting memories of an away game, even though we lost.”
Rockwood said the Cougars played well early and had Texas A&M on its heels but couldn’t put up a goal.
“I think overall the girls look back to game and recognize that we did a lot of great things,” she said. “We were able to build off that. We’re a much more experienced team now. A&M, they just reload every year. They’re one of the top women’s college soccer programs in the country year in and year out. We know we’ll have our hands full, but we’re super excited about the challenge of playing a team like that on South Field.”
Texas A&M is 4-0-2 this season and has five shutouts — six if you count a 0-0 draw with TCU in an exhibition match. The Aggies topped Santa Clara 3-2 and tied with Pepperdine 0-0, both teams BYU will play in West Coast Conference action later this season. Texas A&M was 17-5-1 last season and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Tennessee 3-0. This year, the Aggies were picked to finish second in the Southeastern Conference behind Florida.
“They are a super tough team,” Flake said. “We had tough game against them last year. We thought we played really well but still lost. We’re super excited to get some revenge. I feel like we’re ready to go after beating SUU with a lot of goals and after beating Utah. We’re excited to take it to them and show them what BYU soccer is about this year.”