PROVO — Many felt the No. 4-ranked BYU women's soccer team (17-2-1) was dealt a raw deal when granted a No. 4 seed by the NCAA tournament committee, and the process to prove any injustice begins in earnest this Thursday.
Sure, the Cougars got by visiting UNLV 2-0 in the first round, in a match where they were heavy favorites, but bigger tests lie ahead, beginning with Thursday's match versus Oklahoma. The match, hosted by South Carolina, will kick off at 4 p.m. EST and will be streamed live on ESPN3.
The No. 25 Sooners (14-6-2) won their first NCAA tournament game in program history by knocking off SMU 1-0 in the first round. They've shown steady improvement since head coach Matt Potter's first year in 2012 when Oklahoma went 7-9-4.
The Cougars, meanwhile, advanced to the round of eight in 2012 and have been fixtures in the tournament for some time, advancing past the first round in four of the last five seasons.
That 2012 team was certainly complete, but the headliner was the defense, led by Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, who was named as a first-team All-American.
This year's team is also complete, with the spotlight cast on a dynamic offensive attack led by seniors Ashley Hatch and Michele Vasconcelos, along with junior Nadia Gomes. The trio has vaulted the Cougars to an average of 2.8 goals scored per game, third nationally, with Hatch having tallied 18 goals, which has her tied for fourth place nationally. Gomes and Vasconcelos have each notched 12 assists, which has them each tied for third in the nation.
"I think that what stands out most is our attack. Our dynamic, creative attack," said Cougar coach Jennifer Rockwood, who has coached the program since 1995. "It involves four, five, six and seven people, so you can't just key on one person."
Indeed BYU's attack involves just about everyone from stalwart midfielders such as Elena Medeiros and Bizzy Bowen to aggressive defenders, such as Stephanie Ringwood Ney and Alyssa Jefferson.
"We have a lot of weapons and we've done a great job of creating dangerous opportunities inside the box," Rockwood said. "So we've scored a lot of goals this year, which we wanted to do and feel confident doing."
Should the Cougars get by the Sooners, they'll meet up with the winner of a match between South Carolina and Colorado this Saturday.
- Thursday, Nov. 17 at 4:00 EST p.m. at Stone Stadium at the University of South Carolina
- Radio: The Cougar IMG Network, ESPN 960 AM and BYU Radio (Sirius XM 143)
- Radio Talent: Greg Wrubell (play-by-play) and Colette Smith (analyst)
- Video Stream: ESPN3