To Gonzaga, it must have seemed as if every BYU player on the field but goalkeeper Cassidy Smith was playing on attack.
The No. 16 Cougars have been on an offensive tear recently and continued that excellent play on Saturday in a 4-0 victory against the Zags at South Field.
BYU has outscored its past four opponents 19-2 and the key to that attack has been the connection from the back line to the midfield to the forwards, involving all positions in putting pressure on the opposing defense.
“It’s something we’ve talked a lot about, finding our personality as a team and have more of our individual personality come out,” Cougar coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “I think through the season and through our experience traveling and training and competing the team has really come together. It takes playing games and that experience to find that confidence.
“We’ve stayed with the same kind of rotation and starting group and we’ve been able to score a bunch. Lots of players are getting time. We’ve been able to play pretty much our whole roster these past three games. That goes a long way to building team chemistry and everybody feeling really good about what’s happening.”
A beautifully placed pass from freshman defender Brooke Hale in the fifth minute set up the first goal of the match. Hale’s pass found the open space and Cameron Tucker actually put two shots off the crossbar – one from her foot and one from a header – before Makaylie Call finally put the ball away for a 1-0 lead.
Hale also set up the second goal with another aggressive pass. Jamie Shepherd and Tucker played the ball back and forth to each other before Shepherd drilled a shot into the net for a 2-0 lead in the 21st minute.
“The last couple of games we’ve really working on getting into a rhythm and moving the ball,” Hale said. “Everyone can attack. At halftime Coach was talking about how we can attack in so many different ways.
It doesn’t have to be the same couple of players. We’re all getting up in the attack and moving the ball. If we keep moving forward like that we’re going to be so successful.”
All-American Mikayla Colohan scored for the eighth straight match three minutes into the second half, gathering in a rebound from a shot by Rachel McCarthy to make it 3-0.
The final goal of the match went to Tucker, who outraced a defender to a ball placed by Call and blasted it past the goalkeeper for a 4-0 margin.
Smith got the clean sheet with three saves, including one in the match’s final minute. BYU outshot Gonzaga 24 to 6 and controlled the pace of play throughout. Tucker added two assists to her goal and Call and McCarthy were also credited with assists.
“We want to be able to score and attack from all of our positions,” Rockwood said. “We talk about that a lot. We do a lot of those type of passing patterns that start with our back line. We feel like we can attack in lot of different ways.”
Colohan had a slow start to the season but has now scored 10 goals in the past eight matches.
“She’s such a special player,” Rockwood said. “She just does it all. She’s so smooth and has great vision. She’s such a smart player and she reads the game well. She uses her momentum and uses the defender’s momentum against themselves. I can’t even imagine trying to mark her.”
BYU (7-2-0 overall, 5-1-0 West Coast Conference) gets another shot at league-leading Santa Clara on Wednesday in California. The Broncos scored in the final two minutes in Provo to claim a 2-1 win on March 13.
This meeting won’t be a league match but is very important to the Cougars and their post-season resume. The NCAA Tournament will consist of only 48 teams this season (instead of 64), with 31 automatic qualifiers and 17 at-large bids.
“We had the opportunity to put Santa Clara away earlier (in the first meeting) and we kept them in the game,” Rockwood said. “I thought we played them very well. We just need to put a few more chances in. We’ve been scoring a lot lately and we hope that continues. This will be a huge game for us.”
BYU is now 13-0 all-time against Gonzaga and Rockwood is 4-0 against Zags coach Chris Watkins, her former assistant.