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Growing pains for youthful Y. soccer team

BYU keeper Erika Woodbury, here blocking a point-blank Hawaii shot, is one of the first-year Cougar players.
BYU keeper Erika Woodbury, here blocking a point-blank Hawaii shot, is one of the first-year Cougar players.
Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — The 2004 season for the BYU women's soccer season has been a roller-coaster ride as the team struggles to find consistency on one of the youngest rosters in the MWC.

The Cougars lost seven starters from last year's team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, including All-American Aleisha Cramer-Rose and All-MWC performers Jennifer Fielding and Terra Bigelow.

BYU head coach Jen Rockwood said the main difference between this year's team and last year's is familiarity.

"It's obviously different when you have a group of girls who've played together and have come up through the program together," Rockwood said. "We knew it was going to be a rebuilding year for us."

Returning All-MWC performer Krissa Campbell-Reinbold echoes her coach's sentiments.

"Last year's team, we had been together for a couple of years at least, so we knew each other and our chemistry was strong," Reinbold said. "This year it's been a battle to get that chemistry, because there's a lot of new players, a lot of new roles to find for everybody."

Rockwood said she has preached patience to her team all year long, emphasizing the old coaching cliche of taking it, "one game at a time."

And the Cougars' fortunes have changed "one game at a time."

BYU started the season out with two tough losses on the road against Idaho State and at home against Kansas. The Cougars appeared to turn the corner in their next few games, winning three out of four to even their record before going winless over the next six games.

BYU hit its stride during conference play posting a 2-1-2 record thus far in conference play but has still battled to remain consistent.

An example of this lack of consistency came on a road trip a couple of weeks ago. The Cougars were traveling to take on national power Texas in Austin before heading to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force in a conference game.

"If you look at how we played at one of the top teams in the country last week at the University of Texas, we played really well against a top-quality opponent," Rockwood said, adding that she thought her team would come out of that game with a tie.

Following the game against Texas, BYU hit another bump in the road at Air Force. The Cougars weren't able to match the intensity that almost netted them a victory against Texas.

"With a young team we have to learn how to prepare for every game," Rockwood said. "It's easier to get prepared to play a game in a big stadium on national TV, but the Air Force game was a more important game for us."

Despite the setbacks, Rockwood said she feels good about where her team is at this point in the season and feels her team is heading in the right direction going into the conference tournament.

With one game left in the regular season, BYU is in fourth place in the conference and could move past Utah into third place with a victory in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 30.

But the Cougars know if they are going to extend their streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament to eight, they are going to have to win the conference tournament.

"Our goal is to win the conference," Rockwood said. "We're in a situation where to get to the NCAA tournament we need to win our conference tournament. That's why we're taking it one game at a time right now, one day at a time."

And if they're able to win the conference tournament, this roller-coaster season could end on a high note.