After getting the go-ahead goal on Monday against Utah Valley, the 10th-ranked BYU women’s soccer team found itself facing some real adversity.
Down a player for the final 22 minutes after a red card was issued, the Cougars dug in, kept the Wolverines from scoring the equalizer and finished with a hard-earned 1-0 victory in front of a packed house at Clyde Field.
“These are always tough games,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “We knew it would be a challenge coming over to their place. The girls all know each other. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, obviously. We wanted to jump on them and try to get an early goal.We didn’t do that this game and we’ve been able to do that in previous games.
Playing Utah Valley for the first time in Orem, BYU found itself going against an inspired home side from the start. Cougar goalkeeper Sabrina Davis, who has often been unchallenged in the first five matches, was put to the test by the Wolverines, especially in the second half. She finished with four saves and BYU still has yet to allow a goal in the run of play this season.
“Sabrina has been fantastic,” Rockwood said. “To get another shutout (five so far) she had to step up and make a couple of nice saves. She’s expected to do that. I’m certainly proud of the way she’s been playing as well as our back line to get another shutout against a good team, a team that was coming after us toward the end and serving some long, dangerous balls. I thought we did a good job of getting a the result.”
The 6-0-0 start is the first for the Cougars since 2005.
After a scoreless first half, BYU finally broke through in the 64th minute. After a Cougar corner kick was deflected out, Jamie Shepherd passed to the middle of the field to defender Danika Serassio, who blasted a 40-yard shot over the outstretched hands of Utah Valley goalkeeper Allie Jara for her first career goal and a 1-0 BYU.
“I think those far-out shots are my favorite,” Serassio said. “That’s kind of my sweet spot. I love getting passes there. We kind of struggled during that game. Our motto is ‘find a way’ and I knew if the ball came to me I had to put it away.”
Moments later, Shepherd picked up her second yellow card of the game, putting BYU down a player for the final 22 minutes and giving Utah Valley some extra incentive to push the ball forward.
The Cougars answered every challenge to earn the result, including a final free kick for the Wolverines with ten seconds to play that was booted away and controlled by Flake to end the game.
BYU dominated possession through the first half but Utah Valley’s defense was up to the challenge, forcing the Cougars wide and not allowing any forays into the scoring area. In the 20th minute, BYU’s Lizzy Brady launched a hard shot from 25 yards that deflected off the left upright of the UVU goal. In the 27th minute, Elise Flake beat her defender but her shot was challenged by Jara, whose kick save kept the Cougars off the board.
Utah Valley had an opportunity in the 39th minute, when a BYU hand ball gave the home team a free kick from 25 yards away. Brianna Hatch’s shot found its way between the Cougars wall but Davis was there to gobble up the ball and the half ended scoreless.
BYU (6-0-0) heads to the Midwest for a pair of games this week at Kansas and Kansas State. Utah Valley (3-5-0) will host San Diego on Friday and travel to UNLV on Sunday.