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BYU women's soccer: The perennial under-seeded Cougars set to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament

BYU forward Ashley Hatch celebrates her goal with midfielder Paige Hunt Barker during an NCAA soccer game against San Francisco in Provo on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. BYU shutout San Francisco 4-0.
BYU forward Ashley Hatch celebrates her goal with midfielder Paige Hunt Barker during an NCAA soccer game against San Francisco in Provo on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. BYU shutout San Francisco 4-0.
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PROVO — It's a different year, but the same story for the No. 4-ranked BYU women's soccer team.

Despite being ranked within the top five for the majority of the season, while holding down a No. 7 RPI ranking, the Cougars (16-2-1) watched the NCAA selection show on Monday with a degree of acquired pessimism.

"We were expecting the worst, and hoping for the best. So the worst that could happen was a four seed, so that's not a bad worst," said BYU senior captain Michele Vasconcelos.

Sure enough, the team's expectations were met, with the NCAA granting the Cougars a no. 4 seed, which essentially means the committee regarded them as the no. 13-16 team entering the tournament, despite their lofty resume.

It's a fate players and coaches have grown to expect, given the tendency of the committee to underseed BYU teams most years.

"It always happens to us," said Vasconcelos, who has been part of four previous NCAA tournament teams.

But instead of focusing on things it can't control, the team is focusing on the opportunity and challenge at hand. That challenge begins Friday with a first round game versus UNLV at BYU's South Field.

"We wanted one more time to play here at South Field and we'll just go from there," said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood.

The Cougars will likely travel from Provo to South Carolina, should they win on Friday. The Gamecocks were granted a No. 1 seed, and should subsequently host the first four rounds of their regional as a result. The Cougars will play the winner of the match between Oklahoma and SMU at South Carolina's home site, should they advance to the second round.

Considering the team's accomplishments this season, coupled with a lot of senior experience, players and coaches are anticipating a deep run in the tournament.

"We have a great core of senior leadership," Rockwood said. "Even besides our seniors, we have a lot of great quality upperclassmen that have been here and done that. This group, since the beginning of the season, has wanted to do something a BYU team has never done before."

The deepest run BYU has made in the tournament was in 2012 when it made the quarterfinal round. That quarterfinal match was held at South Field, where the No. 1-seeded Cougars lost a heartbreaking double-overtime 2-1 match to eventual champion North Carolina.

Vasconcelos was a young freshman on that 2012 team and believes this year's squad compares favorably to that team, along with the previous four NCAA tournament teams she's been a part of.

"The other teams were special, but this team just has a little something extra," she said. "I feel like we already have the attitude going in, that no matter who we're playing, it doesn't matter. We're not scared. We're just ready and we're going to give it our all."

Tickets will go on sale Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. MST. Season ticket holders and Cougar Club members will have until noon to call the ticket office and order their same season tickets for Friday's game. Any tickets not purchased by noon will be made available to the general public.

Ticket prices are as follows:

  • VIP: $30 (reserved parking, pregame meal, halftime snacks, first choice of seating)
  • Section 4: $15
  • Sections 3 and 5: $12
  • Sections 2 and 7: $8
  • General admission bleachers behind the goals: $8 for adults and $5 for students
  • ROC Pass holders: $2 (sections 1 and 2, and behind goals)

Broadcast details will be announced shortly. Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney