Perennial women’s soccer powerhouse Stanford was ranked No. 1 and BYU was on the road for this NCAA quarterfinal matchup, but the unbeaten Cougars had given plenty of indications throughout the season they were ready for their big moment.
In the end, BYU was just another victim.
The Cardinal (22-1-0) shredded the previously stout Cougar defense from the start and rolling to an easy 5-1 win in at Cagan Stadium in Palo Alto on Friday to advance to the Women’s College Cup next week.
Stanford has now ended BYU’s 2018 volleyball season in the Final Four, the Cougars 2019 women’s basketball season in the NCAA Tournament second round and now one of BYU’s best-ever women’s soccer seasons in the national quarterfinals.
Cougar fans may hate rival Utah’s colors, but they are getting sick of another shade of red (cardinal) in the NCAA Tournament.
“Stanford is such a great team with great individual players and they are well coached,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said in her post-game radio interview. “We struggled to slow them down. We didn’t get our shots off and we couldn’t keep the ball. If you let Stanford have the ball as much as we did, things are going to happen.”
BYU had given up only 10 goals all season but Stanford scored four in the first half — two by the NCAA’s top scorer, Catarina Marcario — in a stunning display that overwhelmed BYU in just about every way possible.
“We were excited to come out here and try to get them a little unsettled,” Rockwood said. “We did that in the first five minutes and had some shots but we didn’t pull the trigger.”
Through the first 15 minutes the play was even from both sides, but Stanford took over from there.
Madison Haley threaded a quick pass to Marcario in front of the BYU goal and she nudged the ball into the goal in the 17th minute for a 1-0 Stanford lead.
In the 31st minute, it was Haley to Marcario again for another goal and a 2-0 advantage. The Cardinal made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute of the first half when Kiara Pickett slotted a loose ball in front of the BYU goal and Sam Tran made it 4-0 a couple of minutes later after a Cardinal corner kick.
Stanford outshot the Cougars 20-4 in the first 45 minutes.
The Cardinal took a 5-0 lead early in the second half on a BYU own goal, with the ball deflecting off of Alyssa Jefferson and into the back of the net.
The Cougars top two scorers — senior Elise Flake (20 goals) and junior Mikayla Colohan (16) — didn’t get off single shot in the match. BYU didn’t even mark a shot on goal until the 60th minute of the contest. The Cougars avoided the shutout in the 64th minute when Danika Serassio’s free kick from 30 yards bounced off the crossbar and into the goal to make the score 5-1.
“We came out in the second half and played a lot better than we did in the first half,” Serassio said. “We were mostly just frustrated that we didn’t play our game. We stopped playing our game and that’s kind of where they got their momentum. When we come out and play our game we can beat them but once we started to let them dictate the play, that’s where we dropped off.”
BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Davis faced a whopping 33 shots — 15 on frame — and finished with ten saves.
The Cougars, who were trying to earn their first-ever trip to the Final Four, ended the season with a 21-1-1 record and a lot of memorable moments that even a bad day in November can’t erase.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing student-athletes,” Rockwood said. “This group has been special and it’s been a special year. It was so much fun and just flew by. You’re always sad when it comes to an end. But we created some fantastic memories and they are memories we’ll never forget.”