By B. Robert Zawrotny, '04
IT'S been said the best inspiration is not to outdo others, but to outdo ourselves. The BYU women's soccer team took that wisdom to heart, outdoing themselves and nearly every other team in the country on the way to a top-eight finish in this year's NCAA College Cupthe highest finish in the program's nine-year history.
The Cougars enjoyed a stellar regular season with a 12-5-2 record, including impressive wins over No. 7 Tennessee, No. 14 Southern California, and No. 14 Kentucky. They then marched to the Mountain West Conference championship game for the fifth straight year, only to suffer a disappointing 2-0 loss to No. 14 Utah.
Undeterred, the team proceeded to charge through the NCAA tournament like a screaming corner kick, beginning with an impressive 2-0 win over No. 11 Colorado which was the No. 10 seed in the tournament. It was the highest seeded opponent the team has ever beaten.
"I think getting in gave us some extra excitement," says head coach Jennifer Rockwood, '89.
The Cougars then defeated Idaho State 2-0 before facing a tough Villanova team in the Sweet 16. The game ended in 0-0 double overtime draw, leading to the team's first shootout in program history. Clutch shooting put the Cougars up 4-3, and they needed one more goal to seal the win.
Freshman Nicole C. Jensen, '07, stepped in and fired a kick past Villanova's keeper, propelling the Cougars to their first Elite Eight appearance, against the No. 18 Connecticut Huskies.
UConn proved to be a tougher foe, however, as the Huskies jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead from which BYU couldn't recover. The Cougar's lone goal came in the 63rd minute, when Jaime L. Rendich, '06, headed a free kick from 20 yards out by All-American Aleisha M. Cramer-Rose, '04.
Despite the loss, the season was one of the most successful ever for the women's soccer team: a No. 14 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and an impressive 16-7-3 overall record, not to mention the accolades piled on individual players. The All-MWC Tournament Team, All-MWC Second Team, and All-MWC First Team each had three BYU players.
"We had a tremendous season," Coach Rockwood says. "These women have represented themselves and the school very well."