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BYU women’s soccer ‘wakes up’ in second half, buries Boise State 5-1 in first round of NCAA Tournament

Cougars, a No. 2 seed and heavy favorite, led just 2-1 at halftime before storming past the Mountain West champion Broncos in the second half

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BYU’s Cameron Tucker, center, celebrates her goal with her teammates in the first half as the Cougars defeated Boise State 5-1 in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships at South Field on BYU’s campus in Provo on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU

PROVO — Having won the Mountain West Conference championship by outscoring opponents by eight goals in the league tournament and having posted an impressive 18 wins this season, Boise State’s women’s soccer team rolled into town on Friday night thinking it was a bit under-seeded and feeling decent about its chances of upsetting one of the country’s top teams.

That confidence rose higher when the Broncos trailed by just a goal at halftime, but in the words of coach Jim Thomas, “all that did was wake BYU up.”

“Exciting night for BYU soccer. Great fans, great environment. … Especially the second half, our girls came alive and put a lot of pressure on Boise State.” — BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood

The fourth-ranked Cougars, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament, blitzed the Broncos the first half of the second half with a flurry that Thomas said “was as good of an attacking team as I’ve seen in the collegiate game,” and took a 5-1 win in front of 3,682 fans at South Field in the first-ever meeting between the schools. 

The undefeated Cougars (19-0-1) advance to the second round and will host Louisville (13-4-2) next Thursday at 6 p.m. in Provo. The Cards downed Lipscomb 1-0 at home Friday. Arkansas will meet North Carolina State at 3 p.m. in the first game on Thursday, with the winners advancing to a 6 p.m. third-round game on Saturday.

“Exciting night for BYU soccer,” said Cougars coach Jennifer Rockwood. “Great fans, great environment. … Especially the second half, our girls came alive and put a lot of pressure on Boise State.”

And the Broncos couldn’t handle it.

Rockwood’s message to her team at halftime after the heavily favored Cougars led just 2-1 through the first 45 minutes: “Mostly just a reminder of what we had done all season.”

Which was score goals at a record clip.

The Cougars have now scored 73 goals this season and given up just 10.

“That’s an incredibly powerful team,” said Thomas, noting that his club was “overwhelmed and overpowered.”

The Broncos didn’t go down easily.

Boise State didn’t give up more than two goals in any single match in the regular season, but BYU junior forward Cameron Tucker tallied that many goals herself in the first half, staking the Cougars to a quick 2-0 lead with goals just two minutes apart. Elise Flake and SaraJayne Affleck had the assists.

They were the eighth and ninth goals of the season for Tucker, a Lone Peak High product, and the 15th and 16th in her career.

Seemingly on the verge of falling apart, BSU rallied. Shortly after Tucker’s second goal, BSU’s Emily Curry headed Morgan Stone’s beautiful pass past BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Davis. 

“We were feeling really good about ourselves,” Thomas said, and he told his team that if it could keep BYU from scoring in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Cougars might tighten up and play with fear.

Didn’t happen.

Nineteen seconds into the second half, West Coast Conference player of the year Mikayla Colohan fired a shot that was pushed aside by BSU goalkeeper Sydney Smith, but the tone had been set: the Cougars planned on being aggressive the rest of the way.

Freshman Jamie Shepherd, from American Fork, notched her second goal of the season in the 54th minute, and the rout was on.

Another freshman, Affleck, scored her fourth goal of the season with about 26 minutes left. Lizzy Braby assisted both goals.

Flake, a WCC first-team selection, capped the scoring with her 19th goal of the season. Tucker, who made the all-WCC honorable mention list, had the assist to complete a sensational night.

“We were all on fire and we knew what we could do,” Braby said, disputing Thomas’ prediction that a little pressure might get to the Cougars.

Rockwood said finding Braby in scoring territory was a key, and the Cougars delivered on their coach’s promise.

“It was just a passion plea to go forward and attack,” Rockwood said.

The Broncos (18-5-0) played only one Power Five conference team all season, losing 1-0 to Utah in double overtime, but “played as well as we could and played our hearts out and ended our careers on a good note,” said Curry a senior.

The Cougars dominated statistically as well, out-shooting the Broncos 21-6 and taking 13 corner kicks to BSU’s none.

“You don’t see a team like that in this kind of environment very often,” said Thomas, who has rebuilt BSU’s program in his seven years. “They are going to make a long run (in the tournament), I hope.”

It is BYU’s 20th NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 seasons as a program and 11th appearance in the second round.