The familiarity that exists between the BYU and Utah women’s soccer teams borders on the ridiculous.
There are 25 players from Utah on the two rosters — 15 for BYU, 10 for Utah. There are dozens of connections with high school and club teammates on opposite sides of the pitch for Friday’s 35th meeting between the Cougars and Utes.
They might as well play this one at a neighborhood park, or even in someone’s backyard.
The most interesting connection is BYU junior forward Ella Ballstaedt. The former Wasatch High School standout played the 2016 and 2017 seasons in a Utah uniform before opting to transfer to Provo.
Ballstaedt is able to play right away because the Utah program released her to do so.
“It’s been awesome,” Ballstaedt said. “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to come to BYU. For whatever reason I felt like I was supposed to go to Utah and that’s where my path led me. I’m super grateful for the two years I had there, but I felt like it was time for change. The doors opened up for me to come to play at BYU.”
Ballstaedt has played in four matches for the 2-2-1 Cougars, logging five shot attempts and an assist in 136 minutes. She said she’ll be ready to face her former teammates on Friday.
“It’ll be different, for sure,” she said. “I consider some of them my sisters. We’re super close and super supportive of each other.”
It actually won’t be the first time Ballstaedt has played against her former teammates: Utah beat the Cougars 3-1 in a spring matchup in March.
BYU freshman Oliva Wade will face a pair of former Davis High teammates in Haylee Cacciacarne and Ireland Dunn as well as former LaRocca club teammate Anna Escobedo.
“This is definitely going to be a personal game,” Wade said. “We’re basically playing against all of our friends.”
Utah is 1-2-1 this season and coming off a pair of overtimes decisions: A 1-1 tie with UC Irvine and a 2-1 loss at No. 19 Kansas. The Cougars, meanwhile, responded from a 2-0 loss to top-ranked Stanford with a 10-0 demolition of Idaho State last Saturday. It was most goals BYU had scored since a 9-2 victory against San Diego State in the 2002 Mountain West Conference Tournament and two short of the program record of 12 goals (1996 vs. Wyoming).
Elise Flake and freshman Bella Folino each scored two goals and six other Cougars also found the back of the net in the scoring onslaught.
“Going into the (Idaho State game) makes you a little bit nervous because you’re expected to play well and score goals,” Rockwood said. “We’d played such great competition and played them well, it gave us confidence going into the game. We approach every game the same, that every game is important. The way we came out right from the beginning and were attacking, we were getting after it. It shows a lot of composure for a young team.”
BYU won the last meeting with Utah in Salt Lake, 2-0 in 2016. Last season, the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in Provo.
“The nice thing is that we’ve been so focused on our schedule up to this point we haven’t thought about Utah until it’s appropriate,” Rockwood said. “We’ve had good focus in practice. We’ve watched game film and we’ve been trying to get better at what we do. These girls know each other and played against and with each other, so they’re always a little extra something-something when we play against Utah.”